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Gorakhpur hospital deaths: documents show Minister was briefed on ‘irregularities’

A distraught mother with her child inside a ward of the encephalitis treatment centre at the State-run BRD Medical College Hospital in Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh on Wednesday.   | Photo Credit: V.V. Krishnan

While the Uttar Pradesh government and its Ministers have claimed that they were not informed about the alleged irregularities in the BRD Hospital in Gorakhpur, documents that have surfaced seem to indicate otherwise.

 

The documents show that Medical Education Minister Ashtosh Tandon was informed of the alleged irregularities and also kept in the loop by the supplier in the matter of the oxygen supply crisis.

At 4:30 p.m. on August 11, a few hours before the news of the children’s death broke, Chief Medical Superintendent (CMS) of the medical college Rama Shankar Shukla informed the Principal that the stock of liquid oxygen was dwindling and that the firm contracted to supply it was not doing it.

In the letter, the CMS urged Principal R.K. Mishra to ensure supply “at the earliest” so that the “lives of the seriously ill patients admitted in the hospital can be saved.”

The Principal was also asked to arrange for alternative means of replenishing the stock of medical oxygen and consult the Gorakhpur DM and Divisional Commissioner to ensure its supply.

Mounting dues

On August 9, a day before 23 children died in the hospital and when oxygen supply was reportedly interrupted, director of Pushpa Sales Private Limited Manish Bhandari wrote to Mr. Tandon requesting urgent payment of the mounting dues. The documents made public by the firm showed that of the dozen reminders it had sent to the hospital and authorities in the government since February, at least one, on April 6, was also marked to Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and Health Minister Sidharthnath Singh.

A note from the Chief Medical Superintendent which states that medical oxygen is going to be completely exhausted and that it needs to be replenished. It also states that the oxygen supplier is not going to send any more oxygen cylinders.

A note from the Chief Medical Superintendent which states that medical oxygen is going to be completely exhausted and that it needs to be replenished. It also states that the oxygen supplier is not going to send any more oxygen cylinders.   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

 

In the letter, Mr. Bhandari tells Mr. Tandon that the dues had climbed to ₹68 lakh and that despite several emails, telephonic interactions and a legal notice, his company had got no response either from the hospital or government departments. He urged Mr. Tandon to clear the dues at the earliest to ensure there was no hurdle in the way of further supply.

On July 10, in a written response to a question raised by Samajwadi Party MLC C.P Chand, Mr. Tandon said he had sought clarifications from the Director General, Medical Education Department, on allegations of “irregularities and misuse” in the hospital. He promised Mr. Chand that his queries would be answered soon.

Mr. Tandon’s response came after Mr. Chand submitted a question to the Principal Secretary, Vidhan Parishad, on May 22, in which he flagged 10 instances of alleged “irregularities and misuse” in the hospital. None of them, however, specifically referred to oxygen supply.

 

Among the serious charges levelled by Mr. Chand was one about diversion of budgetary funds allocated for the purchase of “surgical equipment” to buy bedsheets for want of “high commission” (mote commission ke chakkar mein).

The letter was forwarded to Mr. Tandon by Deputy Secretary Devendra Kumar Gupta on May 31. Mr. Tandon was requested to respond to the questions within a month. His response eventually came on July 10, that too without the action-taken status.

Mr. Tandon did not respond to phone calls.

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Printable version | Dec 1, 2020 4:23:34 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/documents-show-minister-briefed-on-brd-irregularities/article19504380.ece

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