The truth of Gorakhpur tragedy : Who is responsible for the deaths ?

The deaths of children in BRD Hospital Gorakhpur has been a tragic incident and raises the very important and pertinent issue of poor state of healthcare in the country. There is no denying the fact that the condition of public health has been extremely poor and successive governments – both in the center and states – have been insensitive to it. Even the government expenditure towards public health is way less than needed.

On 11 August, when more than 60 children died in BRD Hospital in a span of 3 days, it send the entire country into a state of deep shock. Initial media reports indicated that the death of children in the early morning of 11 August occurred due to lack of oxygen. Primary reports said that there was no oxygen in the hospital and it lead to the death of children. As always happens in our country, the issue was politicized and media started to sensationalize it with utter disregard to facts. Let us know the chain of events, and the persons responsible.

  • Yogi Adityanath visited BRD Medical College on July 9 for an inspection, where the hospital administration did not inform him about the pending bills, and said everything was fine.
  • On August 1, Principal of BRD College Dr. Rajiv Mishra forwarded the supplier’s letter of Rs 69 lakhs as pending to the state health ministry.
  • On August 5, Health ministry released the funds to BRD Medical college.
  • On August 7, the funds were received in the account of BRD medical college; the Principal and Purchase committee acknowledged the receipt of the funds.
  • On August 9, Yogi Adityanath visited the BRD Medical college and once again, the hospital administration did not raise any issue/problems when asked.
  • On August 11, children died because of lack of oxygen.

It raises a very serious question that if the principal of BRD Medical college Dr. Rajiv Mishra had already received the funds on 7 August, why was the amount not released to the Oxygen supplier for the next 4 days even when the amount of oxygen in stock was below the threshold levels ? Why did Principal Dr. Rajiv Mishra and Kafeel Khan (head of the encephalitis unit and also a member of purchase committee) did not raise any alarm ?

The company which supplies oxygen to the BRD Hospital had given 7 warnings in last 7 months to Principal Dr. Rajiv Mishra asking the dues to be paid, but all the warnings were ignored by Dr. Mishra. Only when the company sent a final warning, did Dr. Mishra forwarded the letter to the government and asked for the funds. Check this report from The Indian Express (http://indianexpress.com/…/gorakhpur-hospital-deaths-yogi-…/). It’s a clear case of negligence and mismanagement on the part of hospital administration. The principal of BRD College Dr. Rajiv Mishra was suspended yesterday and a high level inquiry has been initiated against him for his negligence which led to the loss of so many lives.

At the same time, we must also know that Gorakhpur has a very dark history of encephalitis related deaths since decades. In the last 3 decades, more than 25000 children have lost their lives due to Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) or Japanese Encephalitis (JE). The disease is caused by virus, which is borne by mosquitoes. Due to extremely poor condition of hygiene and open drains in many areas of Gorakhpur, encephalitis outbreak has been occurring every year and claiming the lives of hundreds of children. Read more about it in India Today‘s report.

It is very important that we question our elected representatives (MLAs, MPs), Chief Ministers of our states, ministers and put pressure on them to improve the conditions of healthcare. However politicization of deaths, taunts and mudslinging due to political affiliations will never serve the purpose, and the core issue of improving healthcare will be lost in the cacophony of political attacks.

Kshitij Mohan