Gorakhpur Hospital Tragedy: Did 30 Children Die Because Oxygen Bills Were Not Paid on Time?

Lucknow: A state-run hospital in Gorakhpur where 30 children died in a span of 48 hours due to shortage of oxygen supply had not paid the suppliers’ dues amounting to Rs 64 lakh, CNN-News18 has learnt.

Pushpa Co., the firm which supplied oxygen to Baba Raghav Das Medical College, had even threatened to cut off supply if the dues were not cleared. A copy of the letter written by the company to hospital authorities on August 1 is with CNN-News18.

The letter sparks speculation on whether non-payment of the dues had prompted the company to disrupt oxygen supply, leading to the deaths of at least 30 children mostly in the Neonatal and Encephalitis wards of the hospital.

Principal of BRD Medical College Rajeev Mishra, who left Gorakhpur for Delhi on Friday, reportedly knew about the non-payment of dues, but took no corrective steps.

The local administration in Gorakhpur, the Lok Sabha constituency of Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, has admitted that oxygen supply was disrupted, but denied that it led to the deaths.

“Thirty children have lost their lives due to encephalitis in the last 48 hours at BRD hospital. Yes, the supply of liquid oxygen was disrupted yesterday (Thursday) due to pending payment. I have requested suppliers not to disrupt the supply,” District Magistrate Rajeev Rautela told News18.

Gorakhpur SP, however, reportedly admitted that 21 children had died due to shortage of supply of liquid oxygen. “As per SP Gorakhpur, 21 children died due to shortage of supply of liquid oxygen in BRD Medical College, in last 36 hours. Senior officers are on the spot. Exact cause is being verified by civil administration,” PTI quoted a Union home ministry spokesperson as saying.

The tragedy has triggered a political blame game in the state with the Congress demanding the resignation of state health minister Siddharth Nath Singh. A party delegation, led by former Union health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, visited the hospital.

“This is a very sad incident and the entire nation is grieved. This happened because of the carelessness of the state government. We find the state government at fault in this. The state health minister should resign immediately,” Azad told reporters.

Congress chief Sonia Gandhi has asked the UP government to take “immediate cognisance of the crime”.

UP Congress chief Raj Babbar blamed the state government for the deaths. “The CM was in Gorakhpur two days ago and this is what happened today (Friday). If he had taken any action over the laxity, nobody would have died. I demand the immediate resignation of the health minister on moral grounds. Also, at least Rs 20 lakh compensation must be given to the families of the children who died,” he said.

Samajwadi Party leader and former chief minister Akhilesh Yadav, too, held the state government responsible for the tragedy and demanded compensation of Rs 20 lakh to the family of each victim.

Hitting back, Siddharth Nath Singh said the opposition should not “politicize” the deaths. “Proper investigation will be done and quick action will be taken,” he added.

Singh is scheduled to visit the hospital in Gorakhpur on Saturday and will brief the Chief Minister after that.

The tragedy comes barely two days after Yogi Adityanath’s visit to Gorakhpur. Ever since taking over the reins of Uttar Pradesh, Adityanath has been stressing on improving the condition of medical and education sectors.

In April, the Adityanath government had announced that it has started work on setting up six AIIMS and 25 new medical colleges in the state, one of the promises the BJP made in the run-up to the Assembly polls.

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