Muzaffarpur: Hundreds of people expressed their anger and unhappiness outside the Sri Krishna Medical College and Hospital (SKMCH) in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur district on Tuesday, June 18, by protesting against Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. The CM was visiting the hospital to review the situation after the death toll of children due to Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) has risen to 107.
A group of parents, family members and relatives of several dozens of children undergoing treatment in the government owned SKMCH, the biggest hospital of north Bihar, shouted slogans against the government. Local people, too, joined the protest, surprising the district administration.
Fed up with the unsatisfying treatment of their children and continuing deaths in the hospital, protesters raised slogans like, “Go back CM, Go back Nitish”.
Sensing a likely protest by angry parents and family members during the CM’s visit to SKMCH, the hospital authorities had stopped the entry of the attendants, while those who were already inside were asked to leave ahead of his visit. Only one member was allowed to stay inside the ward for each child patient.
Nitish Kumar was accompanied by Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi and top officials of the health department. They met the children undergoing treatment and also their parents, a district health official said.
It took the chief minister 17 days to visit the hospital in Muzaffarpur. The deaths of a few children from AES were first reported on June 1.
According to official figures, on Tuesday, out of the 107 victims, 88 children died in SKMCH and 19 in the private Kejriwal Hospital.
In both the hospitals, over 100 seriously ill children with symptoms of AES have been admitted and are undergoing treatment.
Also read: AES Toll Mounts in Bihar, 59 Children Dead in Muzaffarpur
What angered the people is that, despite their repeated requests to allow them to meet Nitish Kumar to express their grievances, they were not allowed and forced to stand outside the hospital in the scorching heat. “We wanted to show the real picture of SKMCH to Nitish Kumar but were denied,” Suraj Mahto, a relative of a child who is seriously ill and has been undergoing treatment for four days, told NewsClick.
Another man standing close to Mahto, added that many children have died due to lack of proper treatment after they were admitted. “Why are children still dying? One child died today during the CM’s visit. There is a lack of serious efforts to save children,” said Anandi Prasad, a landless farm labourer from Kurhnj block in Muzaffarpur.
Mahto also alleged that the wards where children are being treated are mostly under the care of junior doctors. But during Nitish Kumar’s visit only senior doctors were there as to impress the CM that they are alert, active and serious.
Media persons were also not allowed to enter the SKMCH premises by the authorities to avoid any direct questions to the CM.
Lali Devi, a close relative of a child undergoing treatment in SKMCH told NewsClick that there is a clear lack of required facilities. “We have to purchase cold water bottles for sponging the body of child suffering from Chamki bukhar (local name for AES),” she said.
Lali said, “Doctors and nurses have repeatedly told us privately to pray to God to save our child as adequate facilities for their treatment are lacking. Look at the crowded ward. Till two days back, wards were overflowing with patients that forced parents of the children suffering from AES to sleep on the floor.”
A local social activist Tamanna Hashmi told NewsClick that not just cold water bottles, several relatives of the patients were also forced to arrange oxygen cylinders themselves as there were only four oxygen points in the wards. “One cannot imagine how a serious patient can survive without oxygen facility,” she added.
SKMCH superintendent Dr Sunil Sahi admitted that, “After the outbreak of AES, the number of patients increased forcing us to get additional mattress to admit and treat them on floor as we cannot refuse treatment.”
Sahi said the hospital has converted all 20 beds of ICU into paediatric intensive care unit.
Muzaffarpur Civil Surgeon Dr S P Singh said, “Initially there was shortage of facilities but later it improved. We are working for a special child care centre with ICU and other facilities.”
Also read: Doctors’ Strike Affects AES and Heatwave Patients in Bihar
He said, “Last week, a central team of experts who had visited Muzaffarpur to enquire into the cause of deaths of children reportedly said that the maximum number of cases reported were under the encephalopathy (under AES) category. The team also advised SKMCH to take up research and concentrate on regular follow-ups of patients. They said that there should be a separate research wing under the department of microbiology and pathology and serum samples of patients should be preserved for recheck.” The team also recommended that the bed strength of the paediatric ICU at SKMCH be increased from existing 14 beds to 100.
Locally known as Chamki Bukhar or Mastishk Bukhar, AES is widely seen as a deadly disease for children in the flood-prone North Bihar districts. According to doctors, AES is a severe stage of encephalitis characterised by inflammation of the brain. The disease is transmitted through mosquito bites, leading to infection that causes high fever.