How Gorakhpur has always grappled with healthcare infrastructure problems
The death of 23 children in 24 hours in an Uttar Pradesh hospital might have pushed the state’s health crisis under the national spotlight but Gorakhpur has always grappled with a chronic healthcare infrastructure problem.
The district of Gorakhpur in eastern UP has a 37% shortage of health sub-centres and just 45% of villages in the district have access to a sub-centre within five kilometers, reports the Brookings India health monitor that collates public health data.
The monitor – which provides real-time health data and measures – records that there are no sub-divisional hospitals in the district, a reflection of the poor state across Uttar Pradesh, which ranks among the bottom three big states in India on health infrastructure.
Experts have repeatedly pointed that the deaths of the children at the state-run Gorakhpur’s Baba Raghav Das hospital was linked to a larger failure of infrastructure.
“Places like Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Bihar are very deficient in doctors, especially the primary health centre and sub-centres. Also, the number of medical colleges UP has is grossly inadequate for such a huge state, so the emphasis has to be on strengthening the district hospitals," said Dr K Srinath Reddy, president, Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI).
The deaths at Gorakhpur occurred after oxygen supplies were cut over non-payment of dues worth Rs 68 lakh. The government has denied that oxygen supply snag caused the deaths and instead blamed Japanese Encephalitis, a mosquito-borne disease that affects the brain.
The Brookings monitor records a 95.7% shortage of male health workers in sub centres across UP. More than a third of sub-centres in the state are without water supply, 31% without electricity. Many community health centres show shortages in functioning x-ray machines, living quarters for specialist doctors, specialists living in quarters, functioning labour rooms and several other parameters.
“This region is grappling with a lot of issues such as clean drinking water, sanitation and hygiene issues, malnourishment and apart from Japanese Encephalitis, other diseases such as malaria and scrub typhus," said Dr Jagdish Prasad, director of General Health Services.