30 children die in Gorakhpur hospital

District Magistrate denies deaths were shortage of oxygen supply, but gives no reason for the large number of deaths including 17 in the neo-natal ward of the Baba Raghav Das Medical College.

Thirty children died in the government-run BRD Hospital in Gorakhpur over a 48-hour period, allegedly after a private firm contracted to supply liquid oxygen to the hospital backed out as it was not paid outstanding dues amounting to almost ₹70 lakh.

District Magistrate Rajeev Rautela said that around 30 patients had died in the hospital over the last 36 hours, including 14 in the neonatal ward.

Of these, seven deaths were reported since Thursday night — three in the neonatal ward, two in the Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) ward and two in the general ward. The other 23 deaths were reported since midnight of August 9 — they comprised 14 deaths in the neonatal ward, three in the AES ward and six in the general ward.

The Uttar Pradesh government denied that the deaths were due to lack of oxygen supply. The casualties, it said, were due to various illnesses.

A magisterial probe has been ordered to ascertain the cause of deaths.

Sources in the hospital said that due to the lack of oxygen supply, cylinders had to be transported and filled from neighbouring districts. Manoj Singh, a Gorakhpur-based social activist-journalist, said the hospital had had to rely on using jumbo oxygen cylinders since Thursday night as the liquid oxygen supply had collapsed.

Mr. Rautela said that he had learnt from the Principal of BRD that the hospital had witnessed disturbance in the supply of liquid oxygen since Thursday night as the firm had withdrawn supply due to non-payment of its dues.

“Out of an outstanding of ₹70 lakh, ₹35 lakh was paid to the Lucknow-based firm. But the firm said they have not received the payment. They said they had alternate means of oxygen supply. We requested them to not disrupt supply of liquid oxygen,” Mr. Rautela said.

The company, identified as Pushpa Sales, had written to the principal of BRD Hospital on August 1 informing that it would be unable to supply oxygen if the payment of ₹63 lakh was not made soon. It had also stressed said that the company from which it sourced gas had expressed its inability to supply in future due to the non-payment of dues.

The hospital lies in the home turf of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and the incident comes two days after he himself inspected the hospital during his tour.