Blaming Dr R K Mishra, principal of the state-run Baba Raghav Das Medical College hospital in Gorakhpur, for delaying payment to the oxygen supplier, the Uttar Pradesh government on Saturday announced his suspension. Health Minister Sidhartha Nath Singh said the government had released funds on August 5, but Mishra cleared the payment on August 11, after the deaths of at least 60 children over five days this month. “Owing to laxity, the principal of BRD Medical College has been suspended with immediate effect,” he said at a press conference in Gorakhpur.
Ashutosh Tandon, Minister of Medical Education, said Mishra had forwarded a letter from the oxygen supplier, dated August 1, following which the state government had released funds on August 5. He said the principal claimed that he got the money in his account on August 7, but failed to explain why he did not release it immediately.
Singh also said the hospital administration did not inform Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath about the pending payment during his two recent visits to the hospital — on July 9 and August 9. The government has ordered a high-level inquiry by a principal secretary-rank officer.
While the state government maintained that none of the deaths were related to disruption in oxygen supply, it admitted that there was a shortfall on the intervening night of August 10-11.
“On August 10, at around 7:30 pm, supply of liquid oxygen became low… but the demand was met by oxygen cylinders. This system worked only till 11:30 pm… Supply of oxygen cylinders was not sufficient till 1:30 am on August 11, after which alternate arrangements were made,” said Singh, adding that none of the deaths took place during this time.
“The Chief Minister visited BRD on July 9 and held discussions with the staff. He made another visit on August 9. However, the critical issue of oxygen supply was never placed before him. This is a 950-bed hospital which gets patients from Gorakhpur and its adjoining areas, as well as from Nepal,” said Singh.
Singh suggested that some of the children who died were suffering from encephalitis, one had liver failure. Some of them were admitted in the neonatal unit. He cited figures from past years, all from the month of August — 587 children died at the hospital in 2016, 668 in 2015, and 567 in 2014. He said previous records showed that on an average, 17-18 children died at the hospital daily.