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Doctors' team sees hospital scapegoats

The Uttar Pradesh administration has "maligned" several senior doctors of the Baba Raghav Das Medical College, Gorakhpur, by blaming them for the 30 child deaths on August 10 and 11, the Indian Medical Association believes.

By Piyush Srivastava in Lucknow
  • Published 18.08.17

Lucknow, Aug. 17: The Uttar Pradesh administration has "maligned" several senior doctors of the Baba Raghav Das Medical College, Gorakhpur, by blaming them for the 30 child deaths on August 10 and 11, the Indian Medical Association believes.

A three-member fact-finding team from the association, India's largest private body of doctors, visited the hospital today after local media yesterday reported that the Gorakhpur district magistrate had pinned the entire blame for the deaths on the doctors, sparing ministers and bureaucrats.

When The Telegraph sought his reaction, K.P. Kushwaha, a member of the fact-finding team and former principal of the Baba Raghav Das Medical College, said: "Yes, the doctors are indeed being maligned."

He declined to reveal the team's findings, saying: "The report will be ready soon and released by the IMA officially."

The deaths occurred after oxygen vendor Pushpa Sales Pvt Ltd stopped supplies to the hospital on August 9 evening following unpaid dues of Rs 68 crore, prompting the government to suspend principal Rajiv Mishra and later accept his resignation.

But a senior doctor from the medical college told this correspondent: "The visiting IMA team was convinced that the doctors were helpless and the hospital's failure to pay the vendor's bills resulted from bureaucratic and government insensitivity towards the problem. The team was also convinced that Pushpa Sales should be brought to book."

This newspaper had reported on August 15 how Mishra had sent at least 11 letters to the state government between March 22 and August 1 urging payment of the vendor's dues and informing the authorities of the company's threat to stop supplies.

Government documents show that the letters were sent to the additional secretary and director-general of the medical education department, which functions under minister Ashutosh Tandon, and the director-general of the medical and health department, which comes under health and family welfare minister Sidharth Nath Singh. Some of the copies were marked to the ministers themselves.

Hospital sources today said that copies of some of these letters had also been sent to district magistrate Rajiv Rautela, who handed his report on the deaths to minister Tandon today.

According to media accounts, Rautela's report does not mention these letters and entirely ignores the events leading to the stoppage of oxygen supply. It apparently focuses exclusively on the period between August 9 and 14, apportioning blame on the basis of how the doctors handled the crisis after it developed.

Apart from then principal Mishra, the doctors blamed are Satish Kumar (head of anaesthesia, who was in charge of the hospital's oxygen plant), Ram Shankar Shukla (chief medical superintendent), Ram Kumar (the principal-in-charge on August 10, when Mishra was out of town) and Mahima Mittal, head of paediatrics.

Mishra is accused of travelling to Rishikesh on August 10 amid the crisis, Satish Kumar of being absent without leave on August 12, and Mittal of failing to inform the government of the crisis immediately after it broke. The charges against the other two doctors are not clear.

B.B. Gupta, a Gorakhpur-based doctor who was part of the IMA fact-finding team that also included Ashok Agrawal of Allahabad, acknowledged to this newspaper that the team was "agitated" at the way Rautela had blamed the doctors.

Told that Mishra had forwarded the vendor's threats to the authorities in Lucknow, with copies marked to Rautela, he said: "Yes, we are looking into it."

He too declined to reveal the likely contents of the IMA team's report but added: "We want to suggest a mechanism to prevent recurrences. Our purpose is to save the children."

The father of a four-year-old encephalitis patient who died at the hospital on August 10 has lodged a complaint with Gorakhpur police against ministers Tandon and Sidharth Nath, alleging their criminal negligence had killed the children.

Asked why the police hadn't registered an FIR against the ministers, additional superintendent Satyarth Aniruddh Pankaj told reporters that the preliminary probe into the complaint was still on.

"My son died on August 10 night because of lack of oxygen. It happened because of the criminal negligence of the two ministers and some officers," Manager Rajbhar, a resident of village Motipur-Araji in Bihar's Gopalganj district, has written in his complaint.