If watching 72 infants die at Gorakhpur's Baba Raghav Das (BRD) Medical College wasn't heart-wrenching enough, relatives of patients at the hospital also had to suffer a stream of politicians visiting the medical facility throughout Monday. Many of them even complained that healthcare at the hospital took a back seat as staff set about attending to the VIP guests.
More than 10 politicians — including Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath, Union health minister JP Nadda and Opposition leaders Ghulan Nabi Azad, Raj Babbar and Ram Govind Chaudhary — visited the hospital on Monday.
Dhananjay Gupta, 30, who lost his only son on Monday, blamed the negligent doctors squarely for the tragedy. "My son was alive and well when he came here. But the doctors were busy attending to the ministers, and arranging snacks for them. My son was not killed by the disease but by these netas and doctors," the bereaved father said.
His mother Geeta Devi alleged that not a single doctor checked on the child. "They (doctors) visited his bed just to declare him dead," she said.
Responding to the tragedy, BJP national president Amit Shah had said this was not the first time an incident like this took place in India. However, the explanation was scant consolation for Geeta Devi. "Jekre khud ke poot naahi woh kaa jaane poot khone ka dard? Hamri haaye lage Modi ko," she said. (How would the childless know the pain of losing a baby? We curse Modi).
Ankit Singh Rathore, uncle of three-year-old Kumar Ajay, said the doctors and the hospital staff would treat them badly every time they learnt about the arrival of a VIP. "We are kooda-kachda (garbage). The hospital staff come in and and oust us from the waiting area to allow VIPs' movement. They don't want to be reprimanded, and don't want to clean things every time just to make things look good for the ministers," said Rathore.
On condition of anonymity, a junior resident doctor working at the BRD Medical College, told Firstpost they were under a lot of pressure ever since the media picked up the issue. "One of the seniors was instructed to keep junior residents ready for 14-16 hour shifts, and we have been doing it for the last three-four days. Our seniors are busy entertaining politicians and they have asked juniors to take care of everything else," the doctor said.
The doctor added they missed working with Dr Kafil Khan, the former nodal officer of the encephalitis ward who was released following the tragedy.
For Yogi Adityanath's visit, the encephalitis ward — which has seen dozens of deaths in the past week — was scrubbed clean with bleaching powder and given new dustbins. Garbage was cleared, trays were set in place, tubelights restored, and even a door that was hitherto hanging on its hinges was set right.
When Adityanath visited the hospital on Monday, followed by a rush of mediapersons and followers, the chaos sent one of the hospital doors crashing, and the ensuing shards of glass injured those nearby.
Repeated visits by politicians has hassled not only doctors and patients but also the policemen. On 10 August, when news of the deaths first broke, the state had deployed about 2,000 policemen at the hospital, most of whom were posted outside and near the entrance of the encephalitis ward.
Saurabh Sharma is a Lucknow-based freelance writer and a member of 101Reporters.com, a pan-India network of grassroots journalists
Updated Date: Aug 14, 2017 22:34 PM