Government rejects charges that shortage of oxygen supply led to the tragedy

At least 60 children have died in the past five days in Gorakhpur at the state-run Baba Raghav Das Medical College hospital because of infections and an alleged disruption of oxygen supply in thepaediatrics ward.

The state government today said stringent action will be taken against those found guilty for the high number ofdeath of infants.Gorakhpur District Magistrate Rajeev Rautela had on Friday said at least 30 children had died in the Medical College within 48 hours.However, state Health Minister Siddharth Nath Singh said according to reports from the paediatric department of the college, 60 children had died due to various diseases since August 7. Owing to laxity, the principal of the medical college has been suspended with immediate effect, he added.

Chief MinisterYogi Adityanath on Saturday, while not openly referring to the shortage of oxygen supply, termed encephalitis a challenge that has been there for several decades.According to BRD Hospital records, from 1stJanuary 2009 to 30thNovember 2011, 3,745 children died in the same hospital out of which 1,311 deaths happened due to Viral Encephalitis and 1,011 deaths due to Asphyxia (HIE). Even last year, the total encephalitis deaths reported in Gorakhpur was over 420.This year, 114 encephalitis deaths have been reported till now.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is said to be personally monitoring the situation.The PMO said this evening that the PM is constantly monitoring the situation in Gorakhpur. He is in constant touch with authorities from the Central & UP governments.The prime minister has asked the minister of state for health Anupriya Patel and the Union Health secretary to rush to Gorakhpur and take stock of the situation and file a report.

There are reports that some of the deaths of children could have been avoided if BRD Medical College authorities had taken note of the warnings sent by a liquid oxygen supplier which had last warned authorities 11 days ago that it would stop oxygen supply if dues of Rs 69 lakh were not cleared. The firm had in a letter dated August 1, said it was making the last supply to keep the oxygen plant going for the next 4-5 days. This was keeping in mind critical patients but will be forced to cut the supply if dues were not cleared.

Company officials claimed that they had also written to the Director-General of Medical Education and Gorakhpur’s district magistrate, requesting them to clear the dues but no action was taken.

There are also reports that a number of critical healthcare services and equipment weren’t in a state of operation, including the incubator. The state health minister SiddharthNath Singh saidthat when chief minister Yogi Adityanath visited the hospital on August 9, he was not informed about the situation. The Yogi was a Lok Sabha MP representing the Gorakhpur Lok Sabha constituency for almost two decades before resigning as MP when he was elected as chief minister in March this year.