Gorakhpur children death No child died due to oxygen shortage, says Yogi

Lucknow/New Delhi: The Yogi Adityanath government on Saturday got into damage control mode and denied that the deaths of children in Gorakhpur’s Baba Raghav Das Medical College were due to shortage of oxygen.

Blaming encephalitis — acute inflammation of the brain that’s often caused by viral infection — for the tragedy, Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath said that a magisterial inquiry has been ordered and a committee has been formed to look into the Gorakhpur incident.

Dr Rajiv Misra, the principal of BRD Medical College, was also suspended on Saturday for “negligent behaviour”. And the Centre has rushed minister of state for health Anupriya Patel and deputed Union health secretary to take stock of the situation.

With the UP government drawing flak from all sides, including from a BJP MP, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is himself monitoring the developments in Gorakhpur.

BJP MP Sakshi Maharaj on Saturday said, “One or two deaths is different, but 30 deaths are genocide.” BJP MLC Devendra Pratap Singh also wrote a letter to the chief minister, urging him to visit his constituency and take stock of the situation.

Thirty infants have died within a span of 48 hours in the state-run hospital since August 10.

State health minister Siddharth Nath Singh, who visited the medical college, had on Friday told PTI that according to reports from the hospital’s paediatric department, 60 children died due to various diseases since August 7.

CM Adityanath, at a hurriedly convened press conference in Lucknow on Saturday evening, said that the media was creating false propaganda as not a single death had taken place due to oxygen shortage.

Mr Adityanath claimed that the deaths were due to acute encephalitis, rampant in eastern UP. Cleanliness, he said, is the only way to combat it.

The chief minister also said that the role of the supplier who had allegedly stopped oxygen supply would be probed.

Stating that the supplier had been given an eight-year contract in 2014 by the previous government, and should not have shut off the supply in emergency services. If there was oxygen shortage, it is a heinous crime, he said.

Mr Singh said that not a single child had died due to lack of oxygen. The deaths were due to low birth weight, pneumonia, kidney failure and infection, he added.

“Oxygen supply was on low pressure for two hours in the night on August 10 and 11 and not a single death took place during this period. During this period, oxygen was not shut off and ambu-bags were used for patients,” he said.

UP minister for medical education Ashutosh Tandon said that Rs 2 crore had been sent to the BRD hospital on August 5, but the money was given to the supplies on August 11.

Mr Singh said, “Most of the patients come here in critical condition and do not survive. Some died due to infection… shortage of gas was not the reason.”

Soon after his suspension, the outgoing principal Dr Rajiv Misra announced his resignation and categorically denied the disruption of oxygen as being the cause of children’s death.

Mr Singh blamed hospital officials for not keeping the government informed about the emerging oxygen crisis.

The deaths occurred two days after chief minister Adityanath visited the medical college.

“The chief minister visited the hospital on July 9 and again on August 9 to take stock of the situation. Why did no one bring up the subject during the review meeting?” Mr Singh huffed and puffed.

Meanwhile, an FIR has been registered against Pushpa Sales, the company that supplied oxygen to the BRD Medical College. A series of raids were also carried out on the offices of the company on Saturday.

Speaking to a news channel, Manish Bhandari, the owner of the company, squarely blamed the BRD hospital management for the deaths. He said that on Friday night, a part of the arrears (Rs 52 lakh) were hurriedly cleared after which oxygen supply had started from Rajasthan and would reach Gorakhpur on Saturday night. Mr Bhandari said his company was supplying liquid oxygen during the night and two other companies were also engaged in the supply of oxygen.

The hospital later gave a break-up of 60 deaths since August 7. According to the report, 34 deaths are of newborns in the NICU ward, 12 due to acute encephalitis syndrome (AES) cases and 14 are non-AES cases.