At least sixty children, including many newborn babies, have died in the last five days at a hospital in Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s parliamentary constituency. 23 died on Thursday, when the hospital reported a disruption in oxygen supply, but the state government has emphatically stated that no child died because of a lack of oxygen. It has, however, admitted there could be negligence and has ordered an investigation.
The Chief Minister had visited the state-run Baba Raghav Das Medical College, Gorakhpur’s biggest hospital, on Wednesday.
Yogi Adityanath said he has ordered an inquiry and has promised “strict action against those found responsible.” He has rushed two top ministers, including health minister Sidharth Nath Singh to Gorakhpur.
On Thursday morning, employees who handle the storage plant at the hospital from where oxygen is piped, wrote to the Chief Medical Officer informing him that the stock of liquid oxygen was limited and would last only till that evening. That same night, a report shows, oxygen supply at the hospital dipped to a critical low.
Earlier, the government denied that any of the deaths had been caused due to shortage of oxygen since the hospital had made arrangements.
Gorakhpur District Magistrate Rajeev Rautela said: “No death in BRD Medical College, Gorakhpur, has taken place due to shortage of oxygen supply. Only seven deaths have taken place at the BRD Medical College today and these were due to different medical reasons.”
“As far as the complaint regarding non-payment of dues to the company supplying the oxygen is concerned, it is a matter of inquiry. But there was existing alternative arrangement of 50 oxygen cylinders which was being used, so there was no shortage of oxygen,” he said.
He said arrangements for more oxygen cylinders were being made from an adjoining district. “We are going to conduct an inquiry, the results will be out within the next 24 hours and action will be taken accordingly.”
Senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad and others visited the hospital and demanded the resignation of UP’s health minister. “Heart-wrenching incident. Saddened by children’s death. This happened due to state government’s carelessness,” Mr Azad told reporters outside the hospital. Other opposition leaders are also expected to visit the hospital later in the day.
“Families of the dead were sent off with the bodies, they did not even do autopsies… extremely unfortunate,” former chief minister Akhilesh Yadav alleged in a tweet.