Over 70 children have died within a week in BRD Medical College in Gorakhpur, the seat UP chief minister Yogi Adityath represented in Parliament. The horror peaked on the night of August 10 as the hospital’s oxygen stock ran out, reportedly due to non-payment of arrears to the tune of Rs 68 lakh to the private supplier which then stopped supplies. Within the next two days, 30 children being treated for Japanese Encephalitis (JE) and Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) died gasping for air. When informed of the crisis at midnight, the child specialist is said to have driven around to other hospitals begging for oxygen cylinders and maged to procure 15 cylinders to save a few lives, but what could he do single-handed when the hospital’s daily requirement of oxygen cylinders is 250? And now he has been taken off hospital duty and the medical college principal suspended as the embattled CM seeks a probe. Yogi Adityath has denied oxygen shortage, ascribing the deaths to vector borne diseases like JE, swine flu and dengue assuming virulent forms. As many as 3,000 children have died in BRD medical college, the referral institute in the region, since 2012. The UP government has now directed all medical college hospitals to ensure adequate stocks of medicines and oxygen, as well as to clear all outstanding dues to suppliers. The Centre has meanwhile given the green sigl to set up a regiol medical centre for in-depth research into children’s diseases in Gorakhpur at a cost of Rs 85 crore. There have been multiple child deaths in government hospitals at Malda in West Bengal in 2012 and Malkangiri in Odisha last year. With not even 1.5% of the country’s GDP spent on public healthcare and no health insurance cover at all for most people, more such tragedies are but waiting to happen. While talking of good governce, this is one basic sector where the Modi regime needs to out-perform its predecessors.
Tragedy in Gorakhpur