Gorakhpur hospital tragedy: Victim's family protests as reason for child deaths remains unclear

The family of the one of the victims at the Baba Raghav Das Hospital in Gorakhpur protested on Wednesday outside the hospital after the police did not register an FIR against two of the ministers in the Uttar Pradesh government, ANI has reported.

The complaint was lodged by Manager Rajbhar, whose five-year-old son was admitted to the hospital on 10 August. His complaint said that the administration and the medical staff had knowingly stopped the oxygen supply which resulted in his son's death. The complaint holds the state Health Secretary, the Minister for Medical Health and the Minister for Medical Education as being responsible for the delay in payments for oxygen cylinders, which he claims eventually resulted in the death of the child.

The controversy in the aftermath of the tragedy has shown no signs of letting up as developments are coming in every day on the issue. The actual cause of the tragedy is yet to be established as reasons from lack of oxygen to encephalitis have been given as the reason behind the deaths.

File image of the encephalitis ward at BRD hospital. PTI

File image of the encephalitis ward at BRD hospital. PTI

The first allegation of the lack of oxygen cylinders causing the deaths was ruled out by the state government. State health minister Siddharth Nath Singh had said, "After the first level of investigation, we can claim that the deaths did not take place due to disruption of gas supply." The oxygen vendor too has said that it never stopped the supply despite outstanding dues of Rs 69 lakh, althogh it threatened to do so through various letters addressed to the hospital administration, urging it to clear outstanding payments. The company, Pushpa Sales Pvt Ltd, said that the college was defaulting on the payment for liquid oxygen supply which was a violation of the contract but despite that, the company never interrupted the supply.

While the government believes that encephalitis was the reason for the mounting death toll, Livemint has reported that the hospital's records show that most of the deaths in the last five days are not due to encephalitis. The data shows that of the first 30 deaths which occurred on 10 and 11 August, only five were due to acute encephalitis syndrome and one was due to hepatic encephalopathy, which is related to AES. The other deaths were of terminally ill newborns.

Most of these newborns suffered from various diseases like pneumonia, sepsis and swine flu. Out of the 13 children who died on 12 August, only one had AES. The report also cited Dinesh Kapil, a senior doctor, as saying, "Newborn babies don’t suffer from AES. The list of deceased clearly shows that only five children died of AES and one due to hepatic encephalopathy. As per the list, all other babies were newborns who were apparently in need of expert emergency care services. Such cases are very critical and need continuous supply of ventilation."

Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath has blamed lack of hygiene for the deaths. “The solution to diseases like encephalitis is hidden in the Swacch Bharat Mission. It is not just Swachh but also Swasth [health] Bharat Mission,” he had said in his first Independence Day speech as Chief Minister.

An examination of the hospital's budget throws up a pitiful scenario as it has a mere Rs 5.32 crore for medicines, reports Hindustan Times. Factoring in the four lakh patients visiting every year and the 955 beds in the hospital, the budget per bed works out to just Rs 152.62 per bed per year. The report also quoted Dr Harsh Vardhan of the Sanjay Gandhi Post Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences as saying, "There is little wonder that patients have to bring many medicines and surgical items from outside as hospitals don’t have the budget for them."

The report said that the situation at some of the other state-run medical colleges is similar.

The tragedy has however pushed the hospital to demonstrate much hustle as it tries to restrict the death toll. While the patients still had to procure the medicines, the hospital was providing them with everything else. The new nodal officer of the paediatrics department, Dr Bhupendra Sharma, told Firstpost that about 80 doctors, most of them residents of the Medical College, were pressed into service and were working round the clock with the support of the nurses and the non-medical staff.

Another fact reported on Wednesday was that the number of children who died at the Hospital in Gorakhpur, was lesser in 2017 than it was in 2016. A panel of doctors from Delhi said in its interim report that 200 deaths were reported at the state-run hospital in July 2017 as compared to 292 deaths during the same period in 2016.

The Supreme Court on Monday had refused to take suo motu cognisance of the matter. The bench comprising Chief Justice JS Khehar and Justice DY Chandrachud asked the lawyer, who mentioned the issue before it, to approach the Allahabad High Court with his grievances. The court observed that the authorities were handling the situation and the grievances, if any, have to be raised before the high court concerned.

Updated Date: Aug 16, 2017 15:07 PM

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