While the country is busy debating democracy, a visit to the infamous BRD Medical College, Gorakhpur, shows that things haven’t changed even two years after a tragedy ended up claiming over 60 children. The wards are overcrowded, echoing with the screams of parents while kids continue to suffer and even die due to apathy.
The encephalitis ward remains an epitome of insensitivity. When Newsclick visited the encephalitis department on May 16, we saw children not being admitted due to unavailability of ventilators and witnessed the deaths of three children, allegedly due to encephalitis and pneumonia within four hours.
“Bachhey toh roz hi mar rahe hain, 2 se 3 bachhey toh roz mar rahe hain (Children are dying every day; 2 to 3 kids die every day),” alleged Shami Akhtar, who had travelled 150 km from Narkatiaganj in Bihar to come to Gorakhpur for his child, who has been admitted in the BRD Encephalitis ward for the past 10 days. When asked for more details, he said he was running around to get from outside the medical college, hence does not have any figure of child deaths.
Asked why he bought medicines from medical stores outside despite it being a rule that medical colleges will provide free medicine, Sami, who looked visibly poor, said, “We buy medicines from outside because doctors told us that these are not available in the hospital. In 10 days, I have bought medicines worth Rs 5,000 from outside.”
Shri Narayan, a resident of Kauriram, lost his grandson aged three-and-a-half months, allegedly due to pneumonia, and accused the doctor of delaying his discharge.
“Chaar din se bachha admit tha, pneumonia hua tha, aaj expire kar gaya. Kal raat mein hi doctor ne jawaab de diya tha lekin paper work me inhone late kar diya aur jaise hi hum ambulance ki taraf le kar bhage, bachha mar chuka tha (Our child was admitted for pneumonia for past four days and he died today. Doctors gave up yesterday, only but due to paperwork, it got delayed and when we rushed towards ambulance, he was dead,” Shri Narayan told Newsclick, as he cried.
A person close to the development, requesting anonymity, alleged that “these children have died due to encephalitis but the administration is giving it the name of pneumonia. Every day 3-4 children are dying, but the government is hiding the figure. Encephalitis hasn’t decreased in Purvanachal if you see the data. Earlier they used to come to only BRD but now patients are distributed in every district.”
He claimed that doctors of BRD could not provide the data because they were under pressure.
BRD Hospital After 2 Years Of Tragedy
Also read: One Year of Gorakhpur's BRD Tragedy: No Compensation, No Care
When contacted by Newsclick, Dr Kafeel Khan told Newsclick that “Instead of trying to eradicate the disease, they are engineering ways to hide it. Instead of treating children, they are refusing admission. …The whole government machinery is just trying to manipulate data to hide Yogi’s (chief minister Yogi Adityanath) failure.”
Khan, assistant professor in the Department of Paediatrics at BRD, was suspended in September 2017 for alleged dereliction of duty and private practice — after the death of dozens of children within three days due to disrupted oxygen supply owing to unpaid bills by the state-owned hospital.
Khan alleged that “Doctors working in PHCs/CHCs/District Hospital in and around Gorakhpur mandal are informally instructed not to send encephalitis patients to BRD instead send to Lucknow or Varanasi to decrease the number of encephalitis cases. A new diagnosis has come, ‘Acute Febrile illness /Acute Viral Fever’ to decrease the mortality which was 20 per cent last year. Hospital authorities have not released data after the BRD oxygen tragedy.”
When Newclick approached the doctors to get the data of dying children and the reason, a doctor refused to comment saying they don’t have such data.
Since August 13, 2017, after close to 60 infants died over a span of three days alone, leading to a national uproar, journalists are not being provided with the health bulletin and even press releases.
Meanwhile, Newsclick also visited a number of parents of children who died in the BRD hospital, asking them whether they had received any compensation or even a visit by any UP government official. They said none of them received a single penny from the government. Only one man named Barmhedeo Yadav was reported to have received Rs 2 lakh from former chief minister Akhilesh Yadav, and a visit by Rahul Gandhi.
Also read: BRD Hospital Deaths Come Back to Haunt Yogi Adityanath Government
At least 161 deaths have been reported in the hospital due to “encephalitis” in nearly 11 months, as per an RTI, which was first reported by Newsclick.
When Newsclick approached BRD principal Ganesh for a meeting, he refused, saying he would provide data only to the Directorate General of Medical Education and Training, not to any journalist.