| Doctors and nurses attend to children at Shri Krishna Medical College and Hospital on Monday. Picture by Lokesh Bihari |
Nine more children died of suspected acute encephalitis syndrome in Muzaffarpur since chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi left town on Sunday evening.
Manjhi’s visit to Muzaffarpur to check the situation and the subsequent brush with the people’s wrath seems to have hardly improved the situation. Even an ambulance stationed at Kejriwal Maternity Clinic for use of patients, under orders of chief minister Manjhi, went missing on Monday.
The hardship of patients is continuing with attendants hiring ambulances on their own to bring children with suspected acute encephalitis syndrome symptoms to hospitals in Muzaffarpur town.
Dinesh Sah, a resident of Mahant Maniyari village under Kudhani block, lost his two-year-old son Rohit at Kejriwal Maternity clinic on Sunday night. Sah told The Telegraph in tears: “I mortgaged my wife’s ornaments to borrow Rs 5,000 and treat my son. I admitted him to Kejriwal Maternity Clinic, hiring an ambulance for Rs 700.”
“The government’s claim to facilitate ambulances free of cost to take ailing children to hospitals is a hollow one,” said Arun Manjhi of Dholi who also lost his son Bharat during treatment at Kejriwal Maternity Clinic.
Anirudh Kumar Mukherjee, the administrator and public relations officer of Kejriwal Maternity Clinic, said an ambulance provided by the office of the civil surgeon on Sunday, has gone missing from the premises on Monday.
An ambulance had been on standby on Sunday for free use by people in need.
Mukherjee said: “The ambulance has gone missing. The bodies can’t even be sent home and people have to pay to get private ambulances for bringing children to the hospitals.”
The toll of suspected acute encephalitis syndrome has touched 42. Sixty-three children were admitted to Kejriwal Maternity Clinic of which 27 have died. Deputy superintendent of Shri Krishna Medical College and Hospital (SKMCH) Sunil Shahi said so far, 41 children have been admitted to the health hub.
Nine children passed away since Manjhi left on Sunday evening.
Principal secretary, health, Deepak Kumar, who accompanied Manjhi, said he would rush to New Delhi on June 10 for a high-level meeting. The meeting has been called by Union health minister Harsh Vardhan to tackle the rising toll of suspected acute encephalitis syndrome in Muzaffarpur and its adjoining areas.
A health official said an expert team from global health agencies, including World Health Organisation, are likely to pay a visit to Muzaffarpur soon to assess the situation to tide over the crisis.
Uma Shankar Prasad, a mechanic from Mustafapur in Minapur, said his three-year-old daughter Priya has been struggling for three more days. He said: “Admitted to the paediatric ward of SKMCH, she has been in a coma. There has been no improvement in her condition.”
Scientists and expert teams from the Centre for Disease Control, Atlanta, US, led by James Xavier and from National Centre for Disease Control, New Delhi, led by Padmini Padmanbhun are also at work to investigate the cause and identify the viruses behind the outbreak of the epidemic every year during the summer in Muzaffarpur and its adjoining areas.
In Motihari, around 80km northwest of Muzaffarpur, arrangements have been made to fight cases of suspected acute encephalitis syndrome.
East Champaran civil surgeon Meera Verma on Monday said: “A separate wing has been created in the children’s ward of the Motihari sadar hospital for children with suspected symptoms of the disease. Sufficient medicines have also been procured.”
BJP attacks govt
The rising toll of suspected acute encephalitis syndrome led to the state BJP leaders launching an attack on the government for allegedly failing to fight the menace. The leaders attacked the Jitan Ram Manjhi government for poor medical facilities in Muzaffarpur.
Former deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi said: “The death from encephalitis has once again exposed the poor medical facilities in the state and the government’s failure to learn anything from last year when more than three dozen children died because of encephalitis.”