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Like the initial spate of deaths at Gorakhpur’s BRD hospital, lack of oxygen suspected to be the cause of death, probe ordered

In yet another evidence of Uttar Pradesh government’s apathy towards the state’s healthcare system, as many as 49 infants have been reported dead over a span of one month at the state-run Ram Manohar Lohia hospital in Farrukhabad due to disruption in oxygen supply.

The deaths that took place between July 21 and August 20 but have only come to light now, are a grim reminder of the incident at the Baba Raghav Das (BRD) hospital in the state’s Gorakhpur district where over 60 children were reported dead within five days in early-August due to lack of oxygen supply.

With investigations still on amid a continuing spate of death of newborns and infants at the BRD hospital – which is the biggest medical facility in chief minister Yogi Adityanath’s pocket borough – the Farrukhabad tragedy comes as another embarrassment for the state’s BJP government which has been trying hard to gloss over its negligence and culpability in the Gorakhpur episode.

As had happened when the first spate of deaths was reported from the BRD hospital between August 9 and 11, the incident at Farrukhabad’s RML hospital has triggered the police to file a First Information Report (FIR) against the hospital’s Chief Medical Officer (CMO) and Chief Medical Superintendent (CMS) for negligence. Farrukhabad’s District Magistrate Ravindra Kumar had ordered a probe into the incident after 19 of his notices to the hospital authorities went unheeded.

A report in the Hindustan Times quoted Kumar as indicating that negligence by the RML hospital’s staff led to the deaths.

“The probe ordered by Kumar and conducted by City Magistrate, Jayendra Kumar Jain and Sub-divisional Magistrate Ajit Kumar Singh has confirmed that the deaths were caused due to shortage of oxygen supply at the hospital,” news agency PTI quoted the DM as saying while adding that “FIR was registered against the CMO and CMS for their alleged laxity.”

Of the 49 deaths that died at the RML hospital, 30 were admitted to the sick newly-born care unit (SNCU) while 19 were reported dead at the time of delivery or soon after. Various media organisations who visited the hospital to report on the tragedy have maintained that shortage of oxygen supply at the hospital was the principal cause of these deaths, a charge that has so far been denied by hospital authorities.

Dr Kailash Kumar, SNCU in-charge at the hospital told reporters that a majority of the infants who had died were either born prematurely or were gross underweight and claimed that: “Mortality in such children is quite high. Often, we get children who weigh less than a kilo or two kilos.” He also blamed delay in referral from primary health care to the hospital for the deaths.

Meanwhile, the spate of deaths of newborns and infants at the BRD hospital has continued with 16 more children reported dead on August 31 alone. The hospital had lost 61 newborns and infants within 72 hours between August 29 and 31, taking the death toll at the hospital beyond 300 within just one month.

After the initial spate of deaths in early-August which were blamed on disruption of oxygen supply by various inquiry panels, the BRD hospital authorities have stuck to a common array of problems being the trigger for subsequent deaths – acute encephalitis, sepsis, complexities during delivery of the child, etc.

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