Why the apathy?

Why the apathy?
63 children have reportedly died at Baba Raghav Das (BRD) Medical College hospital in Gorakhpur from August 27 and August 29. Over 100 children have died in the hospital in..

63 children have reportedly died at Baba Raghav Das (BRD) Medical College hospital in Gorakhpur from August 27 and August 29.

Over 100 children have died in the hospital in August 2017 alone.

Background

The Baba Raghav Das Medical College was established in 1969. It is currently the largest medical hospital in the Gorakhpur region. During mid-August 2017, it was reported that close to 70 children died in that hospital in the span of just one week.

Reportedly some of the children died because their oxygen supply was cut off. 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.

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 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”.

Analysis

According to Dr PK Singh, a senior official at the Baba Raghav Das hospital in Gorakhpur district, the latest spate of deaths wasn’t due to negligence. He said that the heavy monsoons and flooding in eastern UP, Bihar and Nepal were to blame. He said, “There is no laxity. The doctors and para-medical staff are doing their duty sincerely. There is no dearth of oxygen or anything else in the hospital. But it's a fact that the children are coming to us in critical condition." He also added that the hospital staff was doing its best to save as many lives as possible.

The government too has shifted the blame to the monsoons. UP government spokesperson Siddharth Nath Singh said, "Vector-borne diseases generally precipitate during monsoon. The entire eastern region is flooded, leading to spike in casualties.”

During an event, the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath said that people shouldn’t expect the government alone to address all problems. He went on to remark that he was afraid the parents will leave the well-being of children entirely on the government. He said, “I sometimes feel that after some time, as soon as their children become one or two years old, people will leave them for the government, so that the government takes care of them.”

Meanwhile, the suspended principal of the Baba Raghav Das (BRD) medical college Rajiv Mishra and his wife Purnima have been arrested in connection to the deaths.

Assessment

Our assessment is that there seems to be a total lack of empathy when it comes to dealing with the sick and the suffering in India. Instead of addressing the problems and finding solutions, officials have engaged in a blame-game. It would be more prudent to take responsibility for the tragic deaths of the children. We must remember that children are helpless and authorities must to ensure that another child does not die. Instead we seem to be focusing on arresting and blaming people while children continue to die.

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