In the span of one week, close to 70 children have died at the Baba Raghav Das Medical College in Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh.
Reportedly some of the children died because their oxygen supply was cut off. The Chief Minister of the state, Yogi Adityanath has announced that a special team will investigate the deaths.
Yogi Adityanath is a Hindu nationalist politician. Currently the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, he has been the Member of Parliament from the Gorakhpur constituency, Uttar Pradesh for five consecutive terms since 1998.
India’s constitution guarantees free healthcare for all its citizens. However, it does not have a National health insurance or universal health care. Thus, the private sector has become the main healthcare provider in the country. This has proven to be detrimental for the poor in the nation who can’t afford good healthcare options. The healthcare sector in India is likely to be worth $280 billion by 2020.
The Baba Raghav Das Medical College was established in 1969. It is currently the largest medical hospital in the Gorakhpur region
In the recent years, there has been a rise in Japanese encephalitis in Gorakhpur. Reportedly, the fatality rates for severe infections range between 20-30%. For the children who are infected, uninterrupted oxygen supply is critical for their survival.
The CM Yoginath had visited the hospital in August to inaugurate 10 new beds in the ICU ward in the hospital. Shortly after his visit, the vendor supplying oxygen to the hospital, halted its supply. It was found that the vendor’s contract had ended in March 2017 and unpaid bills amounted to Rs 68,65,702. Within 48 hours, 17 children died in the neo-natal intensive care unit, five died in the Acute Encephalitis Syndrome ward and 8 died in the pediatric ward.
Adityanath has been criticized by some for not acting swiftly to help the children. He has responded by announcing that doctors from Delhi have arrived in Gorakhpur to investigate the matter. He said, “The matter will be investigated thoroughly. The guilty in medical services will be given exemplary punishment. A special team has been constituted to investigate the deaths.”
The Centre has approved Rs 85 crore to set up a central Viral Research Centre in Gorakhpur. Its purpose will be to help identify “the real problems of vector-borne diseases” in Eastern Uttar Pradesh and will help find “a permanent solution”.
Our assessment is that it is very important to investigate if there has been any criminal negligence on the part of the hospital or the government in ensuring that funds were made available for providing credible infrastructure like oxygen etc. The government and civil authorities should also address and arrest the spread of vector-borne diseases. Open drains and sanitation systems should be fixed and there needs to be effective largescale door-to-door immunization programs instated. We strongly recommend that the government should focus on vaccines.