Days after 60 children, including 34 infants, died at the Baba Raghav Das Medical College and Hospital in Gorakhpur after a private supplier allegedly cut the oxygen supply over unpaid bills, the tragic incident has turned into a full blown political slug fest, with questions being raised about the role of doctors at the hospital who responded to the crisis.
Dr Kafeel Ahmed Khan, who was hailed as a hero on social media for spending his own money to arrange for oxygen cylinders as children in his ward collapsed, has now been removed as the Nodal Officer for BRD Medical College's Department of Pediatrics. And Khan told the media over the weekend that he was being targeted.
"It's a smear campaign against me. I was only trying to help the children."
"It's a smear campaign against me. I was only trying to help the children. I did everything from getting in touch with oxygen firms to ensuring prompt help to patients," he was quoted as saying by the Times of India. Among the charges against Khan, other than dereliction of duty, is also the allegation that he ran a private clinic.
"When we already had 52 cylinders in the hospital on the night of August 10 then what was the need to manage three cylinders from outside. The question arises why did he do it? Medical College did not declare him a hero. It was all created by media," Dr KK Gupta, Director general, medical education, told the paper in response to reports that Khan spent the night trying to collect oxygen cylinders and even paid a vendor Rs 10,000 from his own pocket to arrange for 12 cylinders as supply dried up.
"I have seen campaigns on WhatsApp and Facebook targeting me for being a Muslim, I'd like to tell them, I am an Indian first, and what I did, I did because I am a doctor," he said.
Yesterday some Twitter users accused Dr Khan of being an "Akhilesh man" and pointed towards an unverified handle by the doctor's name, that sent out tweets in the past calling Prime Minister Narendra Modi a "murderer". While Khan's role in present situation, as supported by several parents, is being praised, and his past role scrutinized, there's yet no proof that the Twitter handle belonged to him. Most celebrities on Twitters have impersonators who use their name and photo to either spoof them or form fan bases.
On Monday, India Today said, quoting "emerging reports", that Khan, who is also a member of the supplies department, neither apprised the CM on dwindling supply of oxygen cylinders nor about payments, when Adityanath visited the hospital on 9 August.
The report also said, quoting unnamed doctors as sources, that Dr Khan allegedly moved three cylinders from his own clinic to the hospital on the night of 11 August.
Meanwhile, the head of the hospital, Rajeev Misra, has been suspended pending investigation.
Misra said he wrote at least three letters to the government and the delay in payment to vendors happened because the funds had not come in, a charge Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath denied.
"I wrote at least three letters to the health government on 3 July, 19 July and 1 August, and had even flagged the issue in discussions over video conference. The delay happened because the funds hadn't come in," he told reporters.
"The funding was approved by the government on 5 August... and we made the payments (by 11 August)... Then what is our fault," NDTV quoted him as saying.
The UP government-run hospital has categorically denied that the deaths occurred due to a lack of oxygen supply. Adityanath, and JP Nadda, union health minister, who visited the hospital on Sunday said the deaths occurred due to encephalitis.
Adityanath seemed almost in tears as he addressed the media after his visit to the hospital, as he stressed his love for children. However, angry protestors allegedly chanted "Go back Yogi" as he returned to the Gorakhnath Math. Parents alleged that they were not allowed to meet him and the hospital was "sanitised".
Telegraph reported that he spoke to a "handpicked group of family members of the patients currently admitted there before heading to the wards." However, parents who have actually lost children last week, were kept away.
As usual, the accusations of politicising the issue are flying thick and fast. The Congress has called the deaths of children "murders".
"I have formed a high level Committee under the supervision of the Chief Secretary and a thorough probe has been ordered to check the cause of the deaths in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) and the supply of oxygen. Let the report of the Committee come... I want to assure you all that not only in Gorakhpur but in any government hospital if there has been any lapse then we will take strict action after the BRD hospital tragedy," Adityanath said, adding, "those whose sensitivity has died are now trying to rub salt on the wounds by raising this issue unnecessarily."