• Oxygen Alert Was SOS-ed In 2 Letters Within Gorakhpur Hospital

    By Thursday night, the supply of liquid oxygen to the trauma centre, encephalitis wards, as also to the Intensive Care Unit for newborns of Baba Raghav Das Medical College had been discontinued in protest against the vendor’s bill not being paid.

    Oxygen Alert Was SOS-ed In 2 Letters Within Gorakhpur Hospital

    Japanese Encephalitis and Acute Encephalitis Syndrome claim hundreds of children yearly in Gorakhpur.

  • 30 children die in 48 hours in hospital in Gorakhpur
  • Hospital employees warned that oxygen supply was running low
  • Officials say alternative arrangements were made

Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh: Between Thursday and Friday, 30 children died in a government-run hospital in Gorakhpur, the constituency that Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath represented for nearly 20 years in Parliament.   

On Thursday morning,  hospital employees who handle the storage plant at the hospital from where oxygen is piped to different wards, wrote a letter (accessed by NDTV)  to the Chief Medical Officer informing him that the stock of liquid oxygen was dangerously low and would not last  the night.

The operators pleaded with the authorities to act urgently and save the lives of the patients. This was their second letter; the first sent a week earlier had remained unanswered.


gorakhpur hospital letter ndtv

Gorakhpur hospital staff had written to the Chief Medical Officer warning him of low liquid oxygen supply.

This is an area where Japanese Encephalitis (JE) and AES (Acute Encephalitis Syndrome), both spread through water, claim hundreds of children every year in the rainy season.  From January to August 8, a total of 476 patients were admitted to the same Baba Raghav Das Medical College. Nearly all were children. 117 have died.

So the 30 children  who died this week would have disappeared into that number, causing no alarm except to their families. But for the fact that by Thursday night, the supply of liquid oxygen to the trauma centre, encephalitis wards, as also to the Intensive Care Unit for newborns of Eastern Uttar Pradesh’s second-largest hospital had been discontinued in protest against the vendor’s bill not being paid.
Most of the deaths took place in the section for neo-natal emergency care.  Although officials at the hospital and a  BJP lawmaker from the area, Kamlesh Paswan, say alternative arrangements were made immediately. 

What has gone largely unreported so far is that 18 adults also died during the same period in the same wards. 

“The local media had been warning the BRD College authorities that a tragedy was waiting to unfold after Pushpa Sales, the company providing liquid oxygen to the hospital, threatened to stop the supply due to non-payment of outstanding dues totalling 63.65 lakhs,” says local journalist Manoj Singh. “If so, was there no clause in the contract signed between the company and the BRD Medical College which prevented them from taking such a step during the peak epidemic season?”

Pushpa Sales is believed to have last written to the hospital’s management on August 1 to pay up, but reportedly did not get any response.

After the body count started rising alarmingly and the local media began gathering outside the medical college by Thursday night demanding answers, Rajeev Rautela, the District Magistrate of Gorakhpur, addressed reporters. 

He claimed that the deaths of the 30 children, 17  in the  neo-natal ward, 5 in AES ward and 8 in the general ward were due medical reasons and not linked to the availability  of liquid  oxygen. Although he accepted that its supply had been stopped over unpaid bills, Mr Rautela insisted that the hospital had more than 50 oxygen cylinders in stock to cope with any crisis and was in the process of getting upto another 150. 

It was as recently as Wednesday that Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, the head of the Gorakhnath temple and five-time MP from here, had reviewed conditions at the hospital. He is believed to have inspected the paediatric ward, visited children infected with the encephalitis virus and inaugurated a new intensive and critical care unit. 

yogi adityanath gorakhpur hospital

Yogi Adityanath had reviewed conditions at the Gorakhpur hospital on Wednesday.

But the hospital was crammed with problems. 

All medical personnel, including doctors, nurses and wardboys in the physical medicine and rehabilitation department set up for treating post-encephalitis disabilities have not been paid salaries for more than two years. 

Staff manning the encephalitis wards received their salaries in the last two days after a 5-month delay.

While in the neo-natal department, salaries have not been paid for the last six months.

“Today, there is such an acute shortage of staff in the Hospital that there is just one doctor attending to 40 children,” say Rajesh Mani whose organization, a non-profit named Manav Sewa Sansthan, has been working for the prevention of encephalitis for several years in the Gorakhpur region.

A few months before Uttar Pradesh voted, Prime Minister Narendra Modi committed to setting up a new AIIMS in Gorakhpur with an estimated cost of 1,700 crores. The BJP has been projecting the plan as a major intervention in the battle against Japanese Encephalitis and Acute Encephalitis Syndrome.

But Mr Mani claims that no government has been serious about the issue.

“When the Samajwadi Party was in power, they opened 100 treatment centres in the disease-prone villages to reduce the burden on the hospitals, but they have remained non-starters,” said Mr Mani.
In December 2014, the National Human Rights Commission summoned senior state health officials including then Health Secretary Arvind Kumar, who is now the Principal Secretary or a senior bureaucrat in the state, and asked for a report on how to prevent Japanese Encephalitis (JE) and AES (Acute Encephalitis Syndrome) and how it is heat handled when patients are hospitalised and then in recovery. More than two years later, the report has still not been submitted to the country’s top human rights body. 

The  government has promised  a swift investigation, harsh punishment of those found guilty; the opposition is demanding the resignation of Health Minister Sidharth Nath Singh as well as the Chief Minister. In a region  where encephalitis, for all its dangers, is treated as a recurring annual feature by those in charge , with few signs of urgent care to basic health facilities,  the odds were against the families of the children who are lost.

Sixty children, including many newborn babies, have died in the last five days at a hospital in Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s parliamentary constituency. 23 died on Thursday, when the hospital reported a disruption in oxygen supply, but the state government has emphatically stated that no child died because of a lack of oxygen. It has, however, admitted there could be negligence and has ordered an investigation. The Chief Minister had visited the state-run Baba Raghav Das Medical College, Gorakhpur’s biggest hospital, on Wednesday.

Here is your 10-point cheatsheet to this big story:

  1. Yogi Adityanath said he has ordered an inquiry and has promised “strict action against those found responsible.” He has rushed two top ministers, including health minister Sidharth Nath Singh to Gorakhpur.

  2. On Thursday morning, employees who handle the storage plant at the hospital from where oxygen is piped, wrote to the Chief Medical Officer informing him that the stock of liquid oxygen was limited and would last only till that evening. That same night, a report shows, oxygen supply at the hospital dipped to a critical low.

  3. Raids were conducted at the Lucknow-based firm that supplied oxygen to the hospital and had stopped because previous bills were not paid. The hospital report records that 300 extra oxygen cylinders were received late on Friday evening from Faizabad.  

  4. 23 children died at the hospital on Thursday, 14 of them in the neo-natal ward, where premature newborns are kept. While nine children died the previous day when the Chief Minister visited, nine on Monday, 12 on Tuesday and seven on Friday, according to the hospital.

  5. Gorakhpur’s Disctrict Magistrate Rajeev Rautela has ruled out any deaths due to shortage of oxygen, saying it had been arranged from other suppliers. Officials say that most died due to infection.

  6. “Culprits behind this will not be spared…The Chief Minister visited the hospital on 9 August, but the doctors there did not make him aware about oxygen,” said UP’s health minister Sidharth Nath Singh today, amid demands from opposition parties that he resign.

  7. Senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad and others visited the hospital and demanded the resignation of UP’s health minister. “Heart-wrenching incident. Saddened by children’s death. This happened due to state government’s carelessness,” Mr Azad told reporters outside the hospital. Other opposition leaders are also expected to visit the hospital later in the day.

  8. “Families of the dead were sent off with the bodies, they did not even do autopsies… extremely unfortunate,” former chief minister Akhilesh Yadav alleged in a tweet.

  9. “I am pained beyond words,” said Congress President Sonia Gandhi, while her son and deputy Rahul Gandhi tweeted, “Deeply pained. My thoughts are with the families of the victims. BJP government is responsible and should punish the negligent who caused this tragedy.”

  10. On his visit this week, Chief Minister Adityanath had inaugurated ten-bed ICU, a six-bed Critical Care Unit facility at the hospital, which gets a large number of encephalitis patients. Thousands have died of encephalitis in Gorakhpur since the first case was discovered in the 1970s.

Courtesy NDTV 


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