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Encephalitis? Zero Oxygen? Apathy?
After tragic deaths of 30 children in Baba Raghav Das Medical College Hospital in 48 hours since Thursday, the Yogi Adityanath Government on Saturday constituted a Chief Secretary-headed committee to enquire into the role of oxygen suppliers in the hospital and also suspended the college principal amid all-round criticism of the BJP dispensation and strong demand for exemplary action against the guilty.
Majority of the 30 children died allegedly due to disruption in oxygen supply but the UP Government sought to speak in different voices on the issue even as the PMO said Prime Minister Narendra Modi was himself monitoring the situation.
Incidentally, the oxygen supply department in the hospital had warned the hospital authorities about shortage in two separate letters on August 3 and 10. It had informed them that the supplier, Pushpa Sales, has stopped the supply over pending payment. An official of Pushpa Sales said that they had repeatedly communicated about pending payments to concerned authorities but never got any response and that no one can stop supply like this as “we know the consequences”.
Addressing mediapersons after taking stock of the entire situation which he termed “unfortunate, Yogi Adityanath said his Government would not spare those responsible for the tragedy. He said the disease Japanese Encephalitis has been there since 1978 and it was he who had started the fight against it. At the same time, he attributed the suffering of infants from Japanese Encephalitis in eastern Uttar Pradesh to lack of hygiene and open defecation. The CM said JE remains a challenge but a solution has been found.
“The Government will not accept any excuse and action will be taken against the guilty to prevent recurrence of such incidents,” he asserted even as he urged the media to report the correct figures in sensitive matters.
Nevertheless, UP Health Minister Siddarth Nath Singh reiterated that none of the deaths had occurred due to the lack of oxygen and that he had a proof of that. “Information about low-pressure situation in liquid oxygen supply was received on August 10 at 7:30 pm and gas cylinders were immediately pressed into service. This continued till 11.30 pm. There was then a shortage of cylinders for two hours which was restored at 1.30 am soon after by another batch of gas cylinders,” he said.
However, the Gorakhpur SP maintained that 21 of the 30 deaths were due to lack of oxygen. Even BJP MP Sakshi Maharaj said the deaths were because oxygen supply was cut off.
Singh said, “The matter of delay in payment to the gas supplier was not placed before the Chief Minister, who had visited BRD Medical College on August 9. Neither did anyone inform him about shortage of oxygen there.”
Meanwhile, the Centre dispatched Minister of State for Health Anupriya Patel and the Union Health Secretary to take stock of the situation in Gorakhpur and Union Health Minister JP Nadda spoke to Adityanath offering all help and assistance.
Earlier, Singh and Medical Education Minister Ashutosh Tandon rushed to Gorakhpur and visited the BRD Medical College and also met the kin of the deceased. Tandon announced the suspension of the principal Rajiv Kumar Mishra for his “irresponsible act of delaying payments to the gas supplier”. But Mishra said he had already resigned owning moral responsibility.
“As per records, 17-18 deaths a month are reported due to Encephalitis. Preliminary enquiry established that the cause of death was not disruption of oxygen in all cases; some died due to infection, some others due to neo-natal conditions and one child died due to liver failure,” Singh stressed and went on to cite figures of previous years saying that child deaths in August were higher due to Encephalitis.
“In August 2014, 567 children died and in August 2015, 668 kids died,” the Minister claimed.
“In 2014, the medical college had an average of 19 deaths per day, in 2015 it was 22 deaths per day and in 2016 it was 19 deaths per day as critical patients come to the hospital from UP, Bihar and even Nepal,” he said.
Tandon claimed that required funds for payment to the oxygen supplier were released by Director-General of Medical Education on August 5, credited in the account of principal of BRD Medical College on August 7 and the arrears was paid to the oxygen supplier on August 11.
“Why was there a delay in payment to the oxygen supplier and why did the supplier disrupt supply of gas will be the subject matter of the enquiry,” he said.
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