It has been a year since more than 70 children lost their lives in a tragic incident of medical mismanagement in Baba Raghav Das (BRD) Medical College Hospital in Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh (UP). Yet the controversies surrounding the hospital don’t seem to go away. The Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath, while launching a campaign for the state nutrition mission said that the BRD issue was blown out of proportion by news channels and the incident took place because of “internal politics”.
“Last year when I heard of the news, I thought a similar thing had happened. But when I saw that all the news channels and media had made it an issue, I sent DG (Director General – Health) to Gorakhpur and a sought a report. I also sent my health minister and the minister for medical education and told them to submit a report,” he said, reported NDTV.
He further added, “I asked people there what actually the matter was, and was told there was nothing as such…And if the deaths were due to the lack of oxygen, then children put on the ventilators would have been the first to die. I said there must definitely be something. From where were the figures come from? Then it emerged it was internal politics,”
Since August 13, 2017, BRD Hospital has stopped putting out their health bulletins, which was a practice that was followed every day for ten years. Local journalists and activists have raised questions on serious concerns after the health bulletin was stopped as no data has also been published by the hospital. Also, an RTI reply has revealed that the deaths were due to oxygen shortage.
No bulletin, no data
Earlier, BRD hospital used to provide data on how many patients are visiting the hospital at the time, the number of encephalitis patients and their medical status etc. to the chief medical officer (CMO) and additional director (health and family welfare). This has now been stopped. Journalists are saying that now when they seek for data, they are asked to go from one department to the other but nothing really comes out of it.
The Logical Indian spoke to Dr Purak Mishra, son of formerly arrested Principal of BRD hospital, Dr Rajiv Mishra. He said “Although they have not published any official report, inside sources are saying that till June 4, 2018, from last year, 1200 children have died in the hospital. Most of the deaths are encephalitis related.”
His parents were arrested the day the massacre happened. The 64-year-old Rajiv Mishra and 60-year-old Purnima Shukla were kept in jail for the 10 months despite their deteriorating health. After the tragedy, although the government maintained its stand that there was no shortage of oxygen and deaths were natural, Dr Rajiv Mishra was booked under Section 308 for culpable homicide and 120b for criminal conspiracy. He was blamed for not making payment to Pushpa Sales, the oxygen supplier because in this case, they claimed that the deaths were due to oxygen shortage. “The FIR was filed by the DGME, but he was the one who was responsible for releasing the funds. We have all the documental proof which shows that the funds were not released,” reiterates Purak.
“I had to run pillar to post to get them bail. Thanks to the Supreme Court, my parents are out of jail. But, the question is, did the investigative authorities find who was responsible for the death of the children? Who is to blame?” an angry and tired Purak asks. “The deaths have not stopped. Everybody has been demanding justice for the children who died last year, but, what will happen to the kids who are dying regularly? Who will ask for justice for them?,” Purak further added.
Got rid of the middleman
After the entire fiasco with Pushpa Sales over oxygen supply, BRD hospital started taking oxygen directly from Inox Air Products Limited, a Rajasthan based company who used to supply oxygen to Pushpa Sales.
The medical college was earlier purchasing the oxygen from Pushpa Sales at Rs. 16.50 per litre. After they started dealing directly with Inox, the price, surprisingly went up to Rs 19.39 per litre. The question that journalists and activists are asking is that how does the price go up when they have got rid of the middleman and started directly dealing with the suppliers.
A doctor from the BRD Medical College, who chose to remain anonymous, told Newsclick, “Every month, the medical college needs 1.20 lakh to 1.50 lakh litre liquid oxygen and a single truck carries thirty 30,000-40,000 litre. Four to five trucks come every month. So you can imagine the scale of the corruption that is taking place.”
The college is seriously short on staff too. There is a shortage of 16 doctors. With the monsoon rolling in, cases of encephalitis are going to emerge and many children would be again admitted to the hospital. Although the new Principal, Ganesh Kumar has said that they are equipped to handle the inflow of encephalitis cases, others are concerned with the shortage of doctors and staff.
No compensation to victims
The Logical Indian spoke to Dr Kafeel Khan, the doctor who was first called a ‘Hero’ for getting oxygen for the kids but later arrested and kept in jail for seven months. “Already, it has been a year. Yet there has been no conclusive investigation from the government’s side that could point out who actually was responsible for the tragedy,” he said.
He says that the families of the victim did not get any compensation too. “Government should take more responsibility and at least try to give justice to the victims. The families did not receive any compensation. They are still living with the horrors of the tragic day, eagerly waiting to find out the culprit,” Kafeel Khan says.
Also Read: “The Havoc Was Created Due To Administrative Failure”- Dr Kafeel Khan On What Happened In BRD Hospital, Gorakhpur