In August 2017, the deaths of about 60 children at BRD Medical College in Gorakhpur, due to oxygen supply running out, had sparked country-wide outrage, more so because the tragedy had taken place in a constituency said to be nurtured by Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath. It appears now that on the same day – August 10-11, 2017 – 18 more deaths of adults reportedly took place in the hospital but went largely unnoticed.
According to hospital sources that requested anonymity, the 18 adults reportedly died in Ward Number 14 of the medicine department on August 10-11, due to various reasons, including swine flu. As per local reports, while the medicine department gave no explanation for the casualties, people associated with the hospital alleged that lack of oxygen supply could be one of the reasons behind these deaths, too.
BRD Medical College is the only tertiary referral hospital in and around Gorakhpur and attracts a large number of patients with serious illness.
While the child deaths were widely reported both in the domestic and international media, the alleged 18 deaths in the medicine department didn’t draw media attention as these were allegedly hushed up by the hospital authorities, sources said. Some regional reports then (about two years ago), however, did mention these deaths.
Internal hospital data accessed by NewsClick (but not independently verified) recently confirms 18 adult deaths between August 10 and 11, 2017. Out of these, four were women. The report says a woman named Indu Singh of Kushinagar died due to swine flu on August 11, 2017, in an intensive care unit (ICU) of the hospital. Details of the causes behind 17 other adult deaths are not mentioned in the report seen by NewsClick.
When asked to comment, the head of department, Mahim Mittal, told NewsClick: "It is a two-year-old case and I don't remember how many people died on particular days. Everyday deaths happen in the hospital and it's not possible to remember everything."
However, a BRD employee who spoke on the condition of anonymity, accused the hospital authorities of “hiding data”. "This data is in government record collected by the BRD administration only. The data was released that day the incident (child deaths) had happened. Eighteen adult people also died between August 10 and 11,” the employee said, claiming that this data was “authentic” and that even the Supreme Court and the Allahabad High Court were in possession of it.
“The BRD administration hid these deaths in the medicine department and focused only on the pediatric department, making Kafeel Khan (the suspended lecturer in the department of pediatrics) an easy scapegoat,” the employee alleged, adding that this was one reason why no one focused on the 18 adult deaths on the same days in departments, such as gynae and emergency.
When asked why the cause of deaths had not been mentioned in the purported hospital data, the employee said: "No one knows how these 18 people died in the medicine department. It is a matter of investigation”. The employee further questioned why the hospital was “hiding” the data even after two years and alleged that lack of oxygen supply could be among the reasons for some of these deaths.
"Let's assume the fault of doctors in the pediatric department, but what about these 18 deaths in the medicine department on August 10? On the same day, 14 kids died in NICU and on August 24, as many as 15 children died. If these children died due to shortage of oxygen in the pediatric department, then what about the deaths in NICU and medicine department after August 10?" the BRD employee said, questioning the accountability of Mahim Mittal, who is still HoD of the medicine department.
It may be recalled that the death of about 60 children were caused by disruption in oxygen supply between August 10 and 11, 2017 at the BRD Medical College. The hospital blamed supply disruption on pending payments to the supplier, a charge refuted by the state government, which maintained that the children died due to different illnesses, including Japanese encephalitis.
When asked to comment on the 18 reported adult deaths on the same days, Kafeel Khan, who was suspended for two years and jailed for nine months for medical negligence, said: "It's obvious when the central supply of liquid oxygen (head) is cut, the whole hospital will suffer. Ironically, everyone talked about the cause of paediatric deaths, but 18 adults, too, died due to shortage of oxygen in the medicine ward no 14 on that fateful night of August 10, 2017”.
Khan called for a proper inquiry into each department where the deaths took place that night, adding that he feared that the number might rise.
NewsClick contacted Dr Rajeev Kumar Mishra, then principal of BRD Medical College and Hospital, who said, "It's two-year-old incident and it is not possible for me to remember everything. You should contact the person concerned in this matter." The current principal, Ganesh Kumar, refused to comment on the issue saying that he was not in BRD during the incident.
Meanwhile, some doctors and employees of BRD lamented that the situation in the hospital was the same despite government claims that everything was fine. "Despite government spending crores and inaugurating a new building, three-four kids can be seen on one bed. Some patients even sleep on the floor, “ said a BRD doctor, adding that it was also difficult to get any data out from the hospital now.
Also Read: Tragedies Continue on Daily Basis at Gorakhpur’s BRD Hospital