Shailendra Gupta, 24, who works as a carpenter in Bengaluru, returned home last month to be with his wife for the delivery of their first child. Three weeks after celebrating the birth of their child, Gupta and his wife Laxmi, from Jainpur village in Gorakhpur, are now mourning his death.
“My child was having difficulty breathing, so we rushed him to BRD Medical College on the intervening night of August 9-10. As soon as we reached the hospital, we were handed a small pump (Ambu bag) and told to keep pumping. I did so for over three-and-a-half hours. Later, our child was taken to the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit). The next day, we were informed that he was dead,” said Gupta. “I could not even see his face properly,” he added.
Gupta’s son was among the 23 children who died at the hospital on August 10. Gupta said he would always have the lingering doubt that his son’s life could have been saved.
Meanwhile, despite news of the deaths, parents and grandparents continued to line up at the hospital early on Saturday, waiting for their wards to be admitted.
“There is no other hospital in the neighbouring district where we can go. Private hospitals charge a lot. Most of us cannot afford them. So this hospital remains the only option,” said Moti Chand Yadav, who had come with his granddaughter from Kushinagar. He said she was suffering from “mashtisk jwar” (Acute Encephalitis Syndrome).
Sonu Kasaudan said he had come from Basti district, about 110 kilometres away, with his niece who was suffering from jaundice.
Mukesh, from the neighbouring district of Deoria, said his one-year-old son who was also suffering from jaundice had been admitted. Recalling what happened on August 10, he said: “Suddenly, there was confusion outside the NICU and ward, as the news spread that there was shortage of oxygen. Some parents were given small pumps and told to keep pumping, while others wanted to ask about their children still inside the ICU… Some parents suspected that their children had died, but they were not handed the bodies immediately.”
Meanwhile, inside the NICU, where 14 children died on August 10, there are four infants in one bed. In NICU No. 1, which has eight beds, 24 children have been admitted.
The scene outside is no better. A garbage dump lies right outside the ward, which also has special AES unit. Cows can be seen freely roaming around inside the hospital campus.