Recently, as many as sixty children died in BRD hospital of Gorakhpur. As National Media camped in Gorakhpur, a few facts emerged and many questions arose. Gorakhpur in Eastern UP is the place from where sitting chief minister of UP has won as many as four parliamentary elections (from 1998 to 2017). Despite that Gorakhpur remains a dirty township with uncollected garbage strewn all around.
Gorakhpur and sorrounding regions of Eastern UP are endemic to Japanese encephalitis. Also known as brain fever, Japanese encephalitis is a mosquito borne disease. Disease spreads during monsoon season, when mosquito breeds on marsh lands and ponds. Pigs and birds like herons and storks are reservoir for the virus. Virus spreads through mosquito. Disease can ben controlled by taking appropriate measures like providing clean water, proper sanitation and controlling mosquito breeding. Pictures of dirty open drains, uncollected garbage, lack of basic sanitation may suggeste that despite electing a leader election after election, nothing much has been done to improve situation in Gorakhpur.
Incidence at BRD hospital demonstrates the sorry state of affairs in Indian healthcare. People travel 200 km or more, some from adjoining districts of Kushinagar and Deoria and even from adjoining country of Nepal, to reach BRD hospital for treatment. BRD hospital has dedicated ward for treating encephalitis patients including those with Japanese encephalitis. These patients have very little money. Definitely they do not have health insurance. Otherwise why would they land up in BRD hospital? According to pictures shown on TV, dogs roam in pediatric ward, children with feeding tube stuck through their nose take bath outside by a dirty drain. A reporter asked a father “why are you bathing your child in this dirty place?” “Where else can we go?” came the reply.
Then comes corruption. Most doctors do private practice. They probably take away hospital resources that include precious medicine, surgical supplies and medicines meant for poor. Several news report have suggested that the principal and head of pediatrics department were hand in glove in corruption. Head of pediatrics department was member of purchase committee. He would not clear any purchase without commission and share his loot with his principal.
The apathy shown by government has been discussed extensively. Noted journalist Mr. Sharath Pradhan has written how government and chief minister must accept responsibility of death as ministers sat on repeated reminders, a total of eight from April till August of 2017. This definitely reflects very poorly of the government. According to some report, dues to oxygen supplier was pending from Nov, 2016. For some unknown reason, dues were not cleared. Yogi government had come to power in April of 2017. May be Yogi knew about the state of corruption in the hospital and that is why he refused to release fund for liquid oxygen that was purchased during tenure of past government. In hindsight it was a grave error. May be Yogi government was incompetent and inexperienced.
There is also report that health minister wanted his own vendor to supply oxygen. As a result he did not clear the bill.
Is it fair to expect a non technical chief minister to understand gravity of oxygen shortage in a hospital? To apprise him of the acute distress, there is local hospital administration. Did the hospital administration fulfil their responsibility? Apart from writing a few letters, why did the principal not approach health minister or chief minister for dues? Chief minister had also visited the hospital in recent times. Why was urgency of the matter not brought to his notice? As per report if the money was released on 7th of Aug, 2017 why did an electronic transfer took four days? It should not take more than 30 minutes with proper internet connectivity.
Government has initiated a police case against supplier of oxygen gas. A dealer whose 50 lac rupee was pending for more than 6 months, a dealer who had written 8 letters to recover his due, is expected to supply free oxygen. Is this not another instance of government high handedness and incompetence? Is the oxygen supplier only soft target in the whole shoddy mess that is BRD hospital and health ministry of UP government?
It is important to discuss sorry state of healthcare in India. Sanitation and hygiene are poor. Living condition atrocious. Poor patients travel 200 km to avail hospital facility only to face institutionalised corruption and misery. Definitely, situation in BRD hospital did not happen in last four months. This has been a practice since long and the tragedy has only pointed finger into eyes of people that govern the state. Unless drastic improvements are brought about many more BRD hospital like situation may erupt anytime. Provide affordable medical insurance, open primary healthcare, create many more hospitals that are affordable, clean, and humane. Create municipality that clears garbage, cleans up drains such that easily avoidable diseases can be prevented. Bashing Yogi may help create brownie point, but will not solve issue.
- No country for children : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qUdX-UCVuGU