Updated: April 30, 2018 7:26:21 am
Released from jail after nearly eight months, Dr Kafeel Khan, the paediatrician at BRD Medical College Hospital who was suspended following the death of around 30 children over two days in August last year, told The Indian Express he had been made a “scapegoat” to cover up “administrative failure”, and for “exposing the system”. While “the junor-most doctor” had been sent to jail, Khan added, “no questions had been asked of the head of the department or the chief medical superintendent of the hospital”.
Admitting shortage of liquid oxygen supply, blamed for the deaths, Khan said it was not a problem just at the paediatrics ward but the entire hospital, and that letters regarding this had been sent to officials, “including the Chief Minister”. The government denies the deaths were due to shortage of liquid oxygen.
“If I say there was no shortage of oxygen, I would be lying to myself and I would be lying to the whole nation… The whole story was of the budget (to pay the supplier of the oxygen), which they claimed was released. But the fact remains that the company had written over 14 letters in the previous six months, warning officials that they would cut off the supply. Some of the reminders were even sent to the Chief Minister,” Khan, who was granted bail on April 24 and who returned home on Friday night, said.
Alleging that there were 18 casualties in just Ward No. 14 of the Medicine Department during that time, Khan said, “This is documented. There was no Dr Kafeel there… The whole hospital is supplied liquid (oxygen). There should be an inquiry into casualities in other departments (too).”
Khan said several questions about those two days needed answering. “It is a fact that there was shortage of liquid oxygen. Secondly, there was a sudden increase in deaths during that time. On 9th, only 13 kids died, on 10th and 11th about 30 kids died, and after August 13, the number of deaths again came back to 13-14. We tried hard but for two hours there was no oxygen.”
Khan added that his biggest mistake following the incident was to keep quiet. He said he did so on the advice of fellow doctors, who told him that Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, who visited the hospital after the deaths, was angry with him.
Khan added that the attitude of everyone changed towards him after Adityanath’s visit. Before this, Khan had been praised for arranging oxygen cylinders out of his own pocket. “I was told the CM was angry with me for exposing the system. I was told the shortcomings of the system shouldn’t be revealed, and that I had brought these forth.” Adityanath probably believed that he had revealed information about the shortage of oxygen to the media, which was not true, Khan said.
Khan claimed he kept his silence later too out of fear for his life and for that of his family. “When the CM blasted me, people advised me that he is very angry and that after some time, I would be okay. Once I reached home, there were threats that I would be killed in an encounter.”
It was his wife who finally decided to come forward when the owner of the company which supplied oxygen was granted bail, he said. She had released a letter written by him from jail.
The Gorakhpur police has completed its investigation and filed a chargesheet against all the nine accused in the case, including three other doctors besides Khan. Khan’s lawyer Krishna Nand Tiwari said, “The Gorakhpur court is yet to frame the charges.”
Saying he would like to go back to his job “if allowed”, Khan said, “I am a paediatrician. My daughter was 11 months old at the time (of the incident), I couldn’t be there for her first birthday on August 24. How could I as a father run away when children were dying? What did I do wrong in arranging the cylinders?”
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