Lucknow, August 12
With emerging evidence of gross negligence by all concerned, the death toll has reportedly risen to 44 at Gorakhpur’s state-owned Baba Raghav Das (BRD) Medical College hospital.
The hospital has given a break-up of 60 deaths since August 7 of which 34 are of newborns in the NICU ward, 12 Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) cases and 14 non AES cases.
Speaking to the media before leaving for Gorakhpur, Health Minister Sidharth Nath Singh charged the BRD Medical college management, district administration and the doctors of keeping the chief minister, ministers and senior bureaucrats in the dark about the emerging oxygen crisis.
“The chief minister visited the hospital on July 9 and against on August 9 to take stock of the situation. Why did no one bring up the subject during the review meeting,” asked Singh hinting at heads that are likely to roll.
He, along with minister for medical education Ashutosh Tandon, left for Gorakhpur after meeting CM Yogi at his residence for 45 minutes on Saturday morning. They are expected to brief him after their return.
While initially the state government maintained that the deaths were not due to shortage of oxygen now evidence to the contrary has put them on the backfoot.
There appears to be a letter dated August 10 on the records which had been written by the employee handling the oxygen storage plant to the Chief Medical Officer informing him that the stock was fast depleting and would last till evening.
The same night the deaths came in quick succession and the toll had reached 23 for a single day.
Several letters of Pushpa Sales Private Ltd which supplies liquid oxygen to the Nehru Hospital’s neo natal, JE and ICU wards are also on record repeatedly requesting for clearing of arrears of Rs 52 lakh. They had also informed of not being left with any option but to stop supplies if arrears were not cleared.
Speaking to a news channel the owner of the company Manish Bhandari squarely blamed the BRD hospital management for the deaths.
He admitted that on Friday night the arrears were hurriedly cleared after which oxygen supply had started from Rajasthan and would reach Gorakhpur on Saturday night.
Bhandari said his company was supplying liquid oxygen during the night and two other companies were also engaged.
Director General Medical Education Dr KK Gupta had rushed to Gorakhpur on Friday night. After meeting district magistrate Rajeev Raoutela, Gupta had visited the BRD hospital to study the files of the oxygen supplier.
It was after his visit that the arrears were hurriedly cleared, sources say.
Meanwhile, the display box outside the hospital OT showed low levels of oxygen and nitrate gas. The slow humming of the alarm was clearly audible in the hospital corridors warning of low level of supplies.
Azad demands resignation of health minister
Senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad on Saturday demanded the immediate resignation of the state’s health minister and health secretaries.
“They do not have the right to remain in office for a single minute more,” Azad told the media outside the BRD hospital complex.
He said CM Yogi as the MP of Gorakhpur constituency who had visited the hospital just two days ago could also not be absolved of his responsibility.
Azad recalled the funds and facilities he brought to the BRD hospital for the control of AES when he was the union health minister under the UPA government.
A high-level Congress delegation, including UPCC president Raj Babbar and MPs Sanjay Sinh, Pramod Tiwari and former minister RPN Singh visited the hospital.
Former chief minister Akhilesh Yadav charged the authorities of a cover-up exercise.
He said he had reports that ever since the deaths started rising rapidly the hospital administration was making attendants quietly leave the premises with the bodies by side gates without conducting post-mortems.
He alleged that medical admission cards had also been tampered with to hide the true situation.
The Samajwadi Party has also sent a delegation to make an on-the-spot review of the situation.
Health Minister Sidharth Nath Singh has asked the Opposition parties to resist politicising the deaths in Gorakhpur to draw political mileage.