In what is turning into one of the worst medical disasters in Uttar Pradesh, at least 63 children have died over the last five days at the state-run Baba Raghav Das (BRD) Medical College and Hospital in Gorakhpur after the supply of oxygen cylinders to the hospital was disrupted. 

The incident occurred in Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s parliamentary constituency within two days of a review meeting, reports Zee News. 

The incident of deaths came to light on Friday. 

On Friday, reports emerged that as many as 30 children died in the hospital due to encephalitis in a span of 48 hours amid allegations that a private contractor stopped supplying oxygen cylinders over a payment dispute. Even as 90 jumbo oxygen cylinders were pressed into service to maintain the supply on Friday, the hospital ran out of oxygen around 1 am, reports Hindustan Times.

Families of the children claim negligence by hospital authorities

The families of the children have claimed that the doctors were not treating them well and the hospital was not even providing the medicines required for the treatment. They alleged that though the hospital is supposed to provide free medical assistance, there is neither proper medical facility available nor are the patients provided free medicines, reports The Times of India.

Oxygen supply department had informed the hospital about shortage of oxygen

Deepankar Sharma of Pushpa Sales, the firm responsible for supplying oxygen to the hospital, said that he had informed the BRD authorities about the Rs 68,58, 596 dues despite the terms and condition of the agreement with the hospital clearly mentioning that arrears would not be more than Rs 10 lakh. As child after child began collapsing due to lack of oxygen, the doctors made phone calls to the officials of Pushpa Sales and pleaded for restoration of service.

Meanwhile, Meenu Walia, HR, Pushpa Gas Pvt Ltd said they repeatedly communicated about pending payments to concerned authorities but never got response.

Letter by vendor suggests oxygen supply was disrupted due to unpaid bills

The department handling oxygen supply wrote to the hospital authorities on August 3 and 10 to inform them of shortage of oxygen cylinders as Pushpa Sales had stopped supply over pending payment.

Gorakhpur District Magistrate Rajeev Rautela said that the cause of the deaths at the hospital was the disruption in the supply of liquid oxygen and has further appealed to the suppliers to not cut the supply henceforth. The hospital authorities, however, have denied that there was any shortage of oxygen cylinders, and insisted there was nothing extraordinary about the outstanding amount owed to the suppliers. He also said the hospital was not facing any financial crunch.

At least 60 children died in five days

The series of deaths started on August 7, when nine children died, including four in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), two from Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) and three in the general ward. On August 8, 12 children reportedly died, seven in NICU, three from AES and 2 in the general ward. The next day, 9 kids died, including six in NICU, two from AES and one in the general ward. On August 10, 23 children died, with 14 deaths reported in the NICU, three from AES and six in the general ward. On Friday, seven children died, three in the NICU, two from AES and two in the general ward, reports The Indian Express.

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has ordered a probe to ascertain cause of the deaths

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has ordered a probe into the matter to ascertain the cause of the deaths.

Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya said the Uttar Pradesh Government is committed to the service of the people.

Uttar Pradesh Health Minister Siddharth Nath Singh said proper investigation will be done.

Opposition parties are blaming the Uttar Pradesh Government and demanding the Chief Minister’s resignation

The deaths have caused widespread condemnation from political parties who slammed the state government led by the BJP. Security outside the hospital has been tightened in view of visits by political leaders such as Ghulam Nabi Azad, Raj Babbar and Sanjay Singh.

Meanwhile, owner of the liquid oxygen supply firm Pushp Sales Pvt limited, Manish Bhandari, is absconding. UP Police has also raided the office of Pushp Sales Pvt limited in Lucknow. 

To avoid any further tragedy, new Oxygen cylinders were brought to the BRD Hospital in the morning. 

Union Health Minister JP Nadda has directed Mos Health and Family Welfare Anupriya Patel to visit the hospital.

It should be noted that according to official data, more than 3,000 children have died at the government-run-hospital since 2012. These 3,000 deaths are among the 50,000 children killed in eastern Uttar Pradesh over the past 30 years, most of them due to Japanese Encephalitis (JE) and Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES), added the report.

Gorakhpur has witnessed at least 114 deaths due to Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) this year. 

Feature Image Source: PTI