LUCKNOW: The memories of the Gorakhpur tragedy are still fresh, and now reports of another 49 (minimum) children dying of a lack of oxygen and medical supplies has hit the headlines again. The figure is estimated, as exact numbers of the dead are still not known, a fact admitted by the local authorities who have been able to make a correct assessment as the medical staff itself is not fully aware of how many children have actually died in the overcrowded, filthy Farrukhabad hospital. These figures are of a month.

Local newspapers reported the tragedy first, with UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath sending the District Magistrate Ravindra Kumar to the hospital to assess the situation. He was unable to get an exact estimate, but clearly the deaths are of newly borns. And again the senior doctors and management claim that there is nothing unusual, and these deaths are not due to a shortage of oxygen or medical facilities but because the babies were underweight.

Significantly neither the CM nor his well protected Health Minister Siddharth Nath Singh have bothered to visit the hospital. After the Gorakhpur tragedy in Adityanath’s home constituency there was a clamour for Singh’s resignation. However, the government completely disregarded the Opposition demand and instead held senior doctors responsible, including Dr Kafeel Khan who was the only one doctor on duty who tried his level best to save the children. Significantly, a case has been registered against him and a few days ago the investigating agencies raided his house despite sufficient evidence that he had worked around the clock to provide oxygen and save the children from dying.

The hospitals in Uttar Pradesh range from ghastly to bad, according to those working in public health here. In fact as a senior doctor told The Citizen, “many of the hospitals here are epidemic centres, they do not cure diseases, they create epidemics.” Stagnant water, open defecation, indifferent clearance of infected hospital waste cause disease within, with several hospitals including at least two well known ones in Lucknow itself, becoming the source of dengue and virals within.

Corruption, according to UP doctors, is a major contributor as the deaths of vulnerable children in the Gorakhpur and Farrukhabad hospitals prove. “Everything is on paper, nothing in reality,” the sources said with doctors looking for commissions, and managements seeking their blessings not from the quality of treatment but from the government of the day. All doctors speak openly of the corruption, with many turning away patients from government hospitals where they work and directing them instead to their private clinics where they get a fee of course. As in Gorakhpur where the open whisper is of a senior doctors search for commission for the oxygen supply leading to delays in the payment, and finally the death of the young children suffering from encephalitis. Oxygen is the difference between life and death in this disease.

Chief Minister Adityanath who had visited the Gorakhpur hospital has refused to take any responsibility for the deaths. Nor has his Health Minister. Instead different investigations were set up into the Gorakhpur tragedy. In Farrukhabad also the District Magistrate was sent to enquire while both the CM and the Health Minister had issues other than the death of at least 49 children to attend to.

The doctors of the Ram Manohar Lohia Rajkiya Chikitsalay are going on strike against the FIR filed against the CMO and medical superintendent of the hospital. There has not been a word from the state Health Minister, who seems to be totally disengaged from his department as was evident in Gorakhpur. There too the buck stopped at the door of the doctors and not the Minister who took his time to visit the hospital and the relatives of the children killed by an acute shortage of oxygen.

Singh has been in denail all through. In Gorakhpur too, it took sweeping public pressure, to extract a word of concession from him, that indeed that negligence could have killed the children. Otherwise for Siddharth Nath Singh it was business as usual, as he insisted that it could not have been the oxygen supply, as then others too would have died. Similarly he has met the Farrukhabad news of deaths with silence, with the CM too leaving gross neglect and indifference for bureaucrats and doctors to sort out.