At least 60 children have died over five days at the state-run Baba Raghav Das Medical College hospital in Gorakhpur, prompting the Uttar Pradesh government to order a magisterial inquiry into the incident. The deaths are being blamed on infections and possible disruption of oxygen supply in the paediatrics ward but the hospital and district administration have rejected oxygen shortage as a reason.
Incidentally, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had visited the medical college two days ago — it falls in his Lok Sabha constituency — and inspected the paediatric ward. He had also inaugurated a ten-bed ICU, a six-bed Critical Care Unit and visited a ward meant for children infected with Japanese encephalitis virus, and cases of Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES).
A report Friday from the BRD Medical College gave a break-up of the 60 deaths since August 7 under categories listed as NICU (neonatal intensive care unit ), AES, non-AES:
August 7: 9 (4 NICU, 2 AES, 3 non-AES)
August 8: 12 (7 NICU, 3 AES, 2 non-AES)
August 9: 9 (6 NICU, 2 AES, 1 non-AES)
August 10: 23 (14 NICU, 3 AES, 6 non-AES)
August 11: 7 (3 NICU, 2 AES, 2 non-AES)
The government denied that any of the deaths had been caused due to shortage of oxygen since the hospital had made arrangements.
Gorakhpur District Magistrate Rajeev Rautela said: “No death in BRD Medical College, Gorakhpur, has taken place due to shortage of oxygen supply. Only seven deaths have taken place at the BRD Medical College today and these were due to different medical reasons.”
“As far as the complaint regarding non-payment of dues to the company supplying the oxygen is concerned, it is a matter of inquiry. But there was existing alternative arrangement of 50 oxygen cylinders which was being used, so there was no shortage of oxygen,” he said.
In Pictures | Gorakhpur hospital deaths: 60 children die in past five days due to lack of oxygen supply Click here
He said arrangements for more oxygen cylinders were being made from an adjoining district. “We are going to conduct an inquiry, the results will be out within the next 24 hours and action will be taken accordingly.”
(Uttar Pradesh Health Minister Siddharth Nath Singh told PTI: “The deaths of children were very unfortunate and the government will set up an inquiry committee to ascertain if any lapse has been there. If anyone is found guilty, he will be made accountable.”)
In New Delhi, Congress president Sonia Gandhi said her heart goes out to the families of the innocent children “who fell prey to gross negligence and incorrigible misconduct on the part of the authorities”. She urged the UP government to take “immediate cognizance of the crime and culprits” and said persons responsible for this neglect must be brought to book.
Senior Congress leaders including Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad, UP Congress president Raj Babbar, Rajya Sabha members Pramod Tiwari and Sanjay Singh are reaching Gorakhpur Saturday morning to visit the medical college and meet families of the dead children.
Former Chief Minister and SP chief Akhilesh Yadav held the state government responsible for the deaths and demanded strict action and compensation of Rs 20 lakh to the kin of each child. Kamlesh Paswan, BJP MP from Bansgaon, was camping at the medical college. He said the Chief Minister was in touch with him and district officials.