Faced with severe criticism from multiple corners over the death of infants due to alleged oxygen failure in a Gorakhpur hospital, the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and Union Health Minister JP Nadda on Sunday visited the Baba Raghav Das Medical College. Meanwhile, with a four-year-old boy suffering from encephalitis died on Sunday, the death toll of children died in the hospital over the last six days reaches 72.
Adityanath said that a team of doctors from Delhi had arrived at the hospital to look into the deaths. According to ANI, 11 children died on Saturday and until Friday the death toll stood at 60.
“The matter will be investigated thoroughly. The guilty in medical services will be given exemplary punishment,” Adityanath added.
Earlier on Saturday, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath said that a magisterial inquiry has been ordered and a committee has been formed to look into the Gorakhpur tragedy. Gorakhpur is Adityanath's Lok Sabha constituency.
Addressing the media after the visit, Adityanath said, he will not “spare those responsible for the deaths” and added that nobody can be more sensitive towards those children than him.
“We have come to a conclusion that an investigation into this incident is necessary. A special team has been constituted to investigate the deaths,” he said.
“Prime Minister Narendra Modi is concerned over the children’s deaths in Gorakhpur, and the Centre is ready to help the Uttar Pradesh government.”
However, commenting on the Opposition allegation of negligence, Adityanath said, “Congress is playing politics. Ghulam Nabi Azad as health minister had visited here and express helplessness over deaths. The Congress is being insensitive. Visit the wards and find out if there was a breakdown of oxygen supply or not.”
“Those whose sensitivity has died are now trying to add salt to the wound by raising the sensitive issue unnecessarily,” Adityanath added.
Reiterating that encephalitis is the reason behind the deaths of the children, Adityanath says his government has done a lot to tackle the disease. “I will discuss the issue in detail once the report on it comes in,” he said.
Union health minister JP Nadda, who has also visited the hospital along with Adityanath, said: “The Prime Minister is concerned about the deaths and asking for regular updates. The Central government has taken several initiatives for Gorakhpur. For better treatment, a three-member team of specialist doctors is here.”
Earlier on Saturday, Adityanath, who has represented Gorakhpur in Parliament for nearly 20 years, said dirty surroundings and open defecation were responsible for the deaths. “Since 1978, children in eastern UP are dying due to lack of sanitation and defecating in the open,” he said.
Meanwhile, the government has suspended Rajeev Misra as the chief of the medical college. However, Misra has denied that he was at fault, blaming red tape for the delay in releasing fund for oxygen supply. Misra resigned later last night, taking moral responsibility for the deaths.
However, UP Health Minister Sidhartha Nath Singh, said the oxygen supply went down on 10 August, but it was brought under control within a few hours. He added that none of the deaths took place during the window of crisis. The Chief Minister on Saturday said that he has asked a team of top ministers to determine if the death of the children was actually due to a disruption in oxygen supply at the hospital and assured to “not spare anyone found guilty”.
The deaths sparked a political firestorm as opposition parties slammed the Yogi Adityanath-led BJP government. Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi said that action must be initiated against the Adityanath-led BJP government. CPI(M)’s Sitaram Yechury also said on Sunday that, “Criminal negligence. Sixty-three children died due to lack of oxygen. People must be made accountable.”