19/08/2017 11:38 AM IST | Updated 19/08/2017 11:40 AM IST

The Gorakhpur Tragedy Is The Tip Of The Iceberg Of UP's Healthcare Crisis

Three medical college principals have quit, citing poor conditions.

Cathal McNaughton / Reuters
People rest on the floor outside the intensive care unit (ICU) of the Baba Raghav Das hospital in the Gorakhpur district, India August 14, 2017. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton

The recent deaths of over 60 children at Baba Raghav Das Medical College in Gorakhpur, UP, allegedly due to the lack of oxygen supply to the hospital may not be the last of such tragedies.

A report in the Hindustan Times says Maharani Laxmi Bai Medical College in Jhansi came close to facing a similar predicament, with bills to the tune of ₹36 lakhs remaining unpaid to the sole vendor which supplies oxygen to the 700-bed establishment.

Gauri Gas Private Limited has been providing oxygen to the hospital on credit since 2016. The authorities now claim to have cleared its dues till June 2017 after the state government released ₹2 crore in funds it was yet to. Incidentally, the contract of the agency has expired since March 2017, but a fresh tender has not been floated till date.

The hospital, which has an occupancy of about 95% on a daily basis, needs about 120-150 jumbo cylinders of oxygen for its patients. Its reserve holdings are enough to sustain for about 8-10 hours. In case a fresh stock fails to arrive, it has 20-25 cylinders as a back-up.

Although former doctors express apprehension about the state of preparedness of the hospital to deal with a serious crisis, its principle was confident that a Gorakhpur-like situation won't ever arise at his institution because such a scenario hasn't ever fallen it under his 18-year-long watch.

His optimism wasn't shared by doctors and staff, who, speaking anonymously, said the hospital was working on 50% of the staff and funds it actually requires. Patients and their families also complained of the lack of basic amenities, including medicines and hygiene. Since Gorakhpur came under the national media's radar, fresh sheets have been put on some beds, people claimed.

READ: If Gorakhpur Were A Country It Would Be Among The Nations With The Highest Death Rates For Infants

On the heels of these latest developments, three principals of medical colleges across UP have offered to quit, citing poor working conditions as reason, The Times of India reported. Saharanpur Medical College's principal Dr Anand Swarup, Jhansi Medical College's N Sengar and Agra Medical College's Dr Saroj Singh are believed to have mentioned "favouritism" and "shady affairs" in medical education as part of their reasons to leave their jobs.

Out of the 14 medical colleges in the state, only five have permanent principals — Allahabad, Saharanpur, Kanpur, Badaun and Orai — the report also added.

Authorities of KG Medical College in Lucknow also mentioned cases of irregularities in appointments and in the disbursal of funds, adding that successive governments, led by the BSP, SP and now the BJP, has been unable to address these issues over the years.

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, in the meantime, launched a Swachh UP Abhiyan, mentioning its key role in improving hygiene among the common people. "Encephalitis breeds in filth," he said about the killer disease that played havoc in Gorakhpur, blaming "the previous regime" for the deaths caused by it. He also wasted no opportunity to take a dig at Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi, who has spoken out against the alleged medical and administrative mismanagement in Gorakhpur.

"There's a 'yuvraj' (prince) sitting in Delhi, who doesn't understand the significance of a Swachhta Abhiyan. There's no valid reason why he should be permitted to turn Gorakhpur into his picnic spot," the CM said.

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