The sad reality of Uttar Pradesh’s failing healthcare system has been highlighted by the tragedy that showed its ugly face in Gorakhpur, where as many as 60 children died at the Baba Raghav Das Medical College. Call it a coincidence, but it comes as a surprise that the tragedy occurred in Yogi Adityanath’s turf. He has been representing the constituency since 1998. His government has presented statistics to suggest that fatalities aren’t unusual given a large number of patients being treated at the hospital.
But, the fact that 60 children died a dreadful death because the oxygen supply was cut-off makes his claims sound extremely unconvincing and hollow. If the charges are proved, it would be a case of criminal negligence.
Gorakhpur, along with other numerous districts, has been prone to Japanese Encephalitis. It is reported that fatality rates for severe infections have hovered between 20-30 percent. On an average, the disease claims 500 infant lives in the region every year. Uninterrupted oxygen supply is perhaps the only way to rescue the critically infected children. Someone like Adityanath would know this well as he has asked close to 100 questions (89) related to health and family welfare over the past two decades.
The bigger problem is that governments keep coming and going, but the myriad of problems remains unheeded. Lack of sanitation and waterlogged streets remain unnoticed. During monsoons, they cause a surge in cases pertaining to Japanese Encephalitis. What we need to counter such a dreadful disease is a robust door-to-door immunization programme, something similar to the polio immunization programme where doctors and volunteers reach out to people rather than people making their way to the hospitals for basic treatment. Also required is a massive inflow of capital in order to upgrade the medical facilities at the grassroot level.
It is at the grassroot level that the needs and requirements of a large chunk of the population remain underserved. But, first and foremost, we need to provide immediate support to Baba Raghav Das Medical College. This does not mean throwing the institutional shortfalls into the gutter. Government enquiries into the tragedy must refrain themselves from pre-judging the matter. They’d have to find the truth about whether or not the oxygen supply was cut off by the supplier for non-payment of dues. Heinous crimes such as these shouldn’t go unpunished.