Multiple reports suggested that as many as 35 children died this week alone at the Baba Raghav Das Medical College in Gorakhpur, infamous for the deaths of as many as 60 children since 7 August, 30 of them on 10 and 11 August, allegedly after the oxygen supply to the neonatal ward was cut off due to non-payment of bills.
Hospital records, officials who spoke on conditions of anonymity, and even those who went on record, were quoted by media outlets as saying that as many as 24 children died on Monday alone. Between Monday and Tuesday, the toll went up to 34, as the situation continued to be grim at the Uttar Pradesh hospital at the peak of encephalitis season.
Medical college principal PK Singh told the Hindustan Times that Monday's deaths included 15 in the neonatal ward (NICU), five in the acute encephalitis syndrome and four in other wards.
It's extremely alarming that despite the attention the hospital is getting from the state administration after the 10 and 11 August tragedy, doctors have been unable to check the deaths. One reason for that, according to Singh, could possibly be that patients, severely affected by the disease, are brought to the hospital in a critical state.
Singh told the paper that the "area is severely affected by encephalitis. Most of the children who die are among those brought here in an extremely critical condition. They include newborn babies too."
PTI reported that one child died on Thursday due to encephalitis, taking the toll to 35 this week. The Deccan Herald reported that at least 145 people, mostly children, have died from encephalitis since the beginning of this year.
The paper quoted sources in the hospital as saying that the dead this week included 15 newborns.
Medical data obtained from the hospital by Mint showed that the hospital has a poor record of treating patients at the paediatric and intensive care units.
"In 2017 (till July), the total number of admissions to the pediatrics department was 3,878, of which 596 patients died. The figures for the neonatal intensive care unit (newborns) arouse even more concern — of the total 2,386 admissions, 931 died," Mint's Neetu Chandra Sharma noted. Uttar Pradesh holds the record for the country's worst infant and under-five mortality rates.
Data released from the National Family Health Survey, 2015-16 (NFHS-4) show that the state has India's worst under-five mortality rate of 78 deaths per 1,000 live births, comparable to that of Mozambique (79), an African nation with half of India's GDP per capita.
Children continue to die as the government, hospital authorities and private vendors who serve the hospital keep shifting blame about the 10 Aug tragedy.
A three-member fact-finding team from the Indian Medical Association alleged that the Gorakhpur district magistrate had "pinned the entire blame for the deaths on the doctors, sparing ministers and bureaucrats".
KP Kushwaha, a member of the fact-finding team, told The Telegraphthat "the doctors are indeed being maligned."
Meanwhile Pushpa Sales Private Limited, the firm that supplied the hospital, have repeatedly stressed that it did not stop supply of oxygen to the hospital because of a payment issue.
Manish Bhandari, the owner of the firm, told The Hindu: "If they have submitted it (DM report) we will give our evidence when the government asks. We have said that we have not stopped (the supply of oxygen). We will prove it."
District Magistrate of Gorakhpur, Rajeev Rautela, is understood to have blamed both the hospital for mismanagement of the situation, and Pushpa Sales, for cutting the supply of oxygen.