The three-member Central government committee, that has appointed to investigate into the death of over 65 children in Gorakhpur's BRD Medical College Hospital last week, has said that the deaths did not happen because of lack of oxygen. This comes even as hospital documents tell a different story.
Dr. Harish Chellani, Safdarjung Hospital, Pediatric Department who is part of the probe team told The Hindu, "As per information and data provided to us, it doesn't look like the deaths have all happened due to shortage of oxygen. As per the records, we have fewer deaths when compared to the figures at the same time last year."
Reports had earlier suggested that the hospital had low supply of oxygen because it failed to pay its outstanding dues of Rs 70 lakhs to the vendors.
However, medical records of the BRD hospital tells a different story.
In an earlier report, Mint said in data available with them it said only five of the first 30 deaths between August 10 and August 11 were because if acute encephalitis syndrome, one was because of hepatic encephalopathy and the other deaths were of terminally in newborn babies.
A doctor told the newspaper that newborns who have such illnesses need constant oxygen supply.
It quoted Dinesh Kapil, senior consultant, pediatrics, at Delhi's Red Cross Hospital as saying, "Newborn babies don't suffer from AES. The list of deceased clearly shows that only five children died of AES and one due to hepatic encephalopathy. As per the list, all other babies were newborns who were apparently in need of expert emergency care services. Such cases are very critical and need continuous supply of ventilation."
The Uttar Pradesh government has denied that the deaths were caused by lack of oxygen supply.
But it was reported that the Pushpa Sales, the company that supplied oxygen to the hospital had given a prior warning to the hospital about stopping oxygen supply.
But Gorakhpur District Magistrate Rajeev Rautela denied the reports and told The Indian Express, "As far as the complaint regarding non-payment of dues to the company supplying the oxygen is concerned, it is a matter of inquiry. But there was existing alternative arrangement of 50 oxygen cylinders which was being used, so there was no shortage of oxygen in the hospital," he said.
The Hindustan Times had reported that while 90 massive cylinders of oxygen were put into service on Friday, the supply ran out by 1 am after which 50 more cylinders were brought but they too ran out by 7:30 in the morning.
The report said that of the 73 patients in the encephalitis ward, 54 were on ventilator.
Reuters had quoted Bipin Singh who lost his six-year-old daughter as saying, "My daughter and other children were unable to breathe. We kept telling the nurses that they should call the doctors. The doctors said they have ordered for oxygen cylinders but we never saw them being used."
Hospital administration had meanwhile said that they had told the government about the payment issue, and had asked it to release funds to pay the suppliers.
Incidentally, Gorakhpur is Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath's constituency. He said three days ago, "We have formed a high-powered committee under the state chief secretary to probe the reason of the deaths of children in the BRD Medical College and the (lack of) supply of oxygen. Stringent action will be taken against the guilty, whether in Gorakhpur or elsewhere."