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Nitish Kumar jeered with ‘go back’ slogans as encephalitis deaths touch 133

Protestors gathered outside the SKMCH shouted, “Nitish Kumar wapas jao (go back)”. They were upset that the chief minister had visited Muzaffarpur only after three weeks since the spike in AES cases this month.

india Updated: Jun 18, 2019 18:04 IST
Ruchir Kumar and KJ Saquib
Ruchir Kumar and KJ Saquib
Hindustan Times, Patna
Protestors gathered outside the SKMCH shouted, “Nitish Kumar wapas jao (go back)”.
Protestors gathered outside the SKMCH shouted, “Nitish Kumar wapas jao (go back)”. (ANI Photo )
         

Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar was jeered Tuesday and asked to go back by angry protestors when he visited Sri Krishna Medical College Hospital (SKMCH) in Muzaffarpur- the epicenter of acute encephalitis syndrome (AES), a disease that has killed 133 children, according to unofficial estimates, in Bihar this year.

The government, however, put the death toll at 104, of which 103 deaths were reported from Muzaffarpur and one from the Patna Medical College Hospital (PMCH). 85 children had died at SKMCH and 18 deaths were reported from the Kejriwal Maternity Clinic in Muzaffarpur, as per official records.

The government said another 151 AES patients were under treatment in Muzaffarpur.

Protestors gathered outside the SKMCH shouted, “Nitish Kumar wapas jao (go back)”. They were upset that the chief minister had visited Muzaffarpur only after three weeks since the spike in AES cases this month.

Attendants of patients alleged government apathy while pointing out that the district authorities had placed a water tanker at the hospital only on the day of the CM’s visit despite continued water scarcity forcing the attendants to buy water bottles for Rs 20 – 25 for past several days.

“It was only this morning that the district administration, which was aware of the CM’s visit, placed a small water tanker on the hospital campus. Before that it was unconcerned about water scarcity in the area,” said an attendant.

That’s not all; the SKMCH has been grappling with shortage of doctors as well as nurses. Against a sanctioned strength of 114 doctors, the SKMCH had only 84, said hospital sources.

The paediatric intensive care unit (PICU), where most of the AES children were being treated, had a capacity of only 14 beds. The hospital superintendent Dr Sunil Kumar Shahi claimed that he had arranged for 34 beds in PICU by converting general ICU into PICU. “General cases, requiring admission to ICU were now being accommodated in critical care unit (CCU),” said Dr Shahi.

The chief minister has come in for severe criticism by the opposition over government’s alleged inept handling of the AES cases.

The media was kept out of the hospital during the chief minister’s visit. A police officer, requesting anonymity, said, “We were given explicit instructions not to allow the media inside the hospital during the CM’s visit.”

The CM chose not to speak to waiting media persons as he emerged out of the hospital and left in a huff.

The CM had on Monday evening convened a review meeting of health, disaster and education departments. The same evening, chief secretary Deepak Kumar said the government had announced that all AES patients would be provided free medical treatment. He also announced free transportation facility to AES patients by ambulance and to reimburse transportation cost in case of private vehicles.

Unconfirmed reports put the AES death toll at 133 of which 108 deaths were reported from Muzaffarpur, 11 from Hajipur, five each from Samastipur and Motihari (East Champaran), two from Sheohar and one each from Begusarai, Patna and Nawada.

First Published: Jun 18, 2019 13:53 IST

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