Death too frequent a visitor at Gorakhpur’s BRD Medical College
296 children have died at the state government-run Gorakhpur hospital this August.Updated: Aug 31, 2017 16:00 IST
Death refuses to loosen its grip on the state government-run BRD Medical College here which deals with a third of encephalitis cases reported from all across the country.
As many as 296 children have died at the hospital so far this month.
Of these, 213 died in the neo-natal ICU and 83 in the encephalitis ward, BRD Medical College principal Dr PK Singh said on Wednesday.
Giving a month wise break-up, he said the toll in January was 152, in February 122, in March 159, in April 123, May 139, June 137 and 128 in July.
The alarming situation belies the hope that was raised on July 22, 2016 when Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone of AIIMS at Gorakhpur and announced that his government would not let even a single child die due to encephalitis.
There was shock and outrage across the nation when over 30 children died due to alleged disruption of oxygen supply at the medical college on August 10 and 11.
Then, 36 children died within 48 hours at the same medical college hospital on August 16-17. Sixty-one children died on August 27,28 and 29 at the same hospital, located in the parliamentary constituency of chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. Thirty-six of the 61 deaths took place on August 27 and 28 (seven from acute encephalitis syndrome (AES) , 15 from neo-natal intensive care unit (NNICU), 14 from general paediatratic wards). Out of the 25 deaths on August 29, four were from AES, 10 from NNICU and 11 from general paediatratic wards.
Lack of funds, shortage of doctors paramedical staff , medical equipment, ward for children, inadequate medical facilities at community health centres in rural areas also led to deaths at the hospital.
In all, over 10,000 children have died at the hospital since 1978 when the first Japanese Encephalitis came came to light here. Almost the same number of encephalitis survivors became physically or mentally challenged in this time span.
The medical college hospital was set up in 1972.
This year alone, over 1,250 children, including 175 encephalitis patients, have died at BRD Medical College. The toll excludes the deaths at 21 community health centres, district hospitals and private hospitals in the region.
Their age ranged from a few days to 16 or 17 years.
Encephalitis cases are also reported among the elderly whose immune system is weak.
High fever, convulsions, vomiting and unconsciousness are the symptoms witnessed among the afflicted children.
The 21 community health centres in the district’s rural areas are poorly equipped, compelling parents from far-flung areas to travel hundreds of kilometers to reach BRD Medical College to seek treatment for their children.
This medical college is the only institution in the region catering to the need of patients from 36 districts and even Nepal.
Dr RN Singh, a child specialist, said “Most of the encephalitis patients, who have to cover a long distance, are out of breath and unconscious by the time they reach the BRD Medical College. By then, they have spent 6 to 10 hours without oxygen support. This situation proves fatal.”
Dr RN Singh said lack of pure drinking in villages , the presence of pig sties, improper vaccination against JE and open defecation also led to cases of encephalitis.
Asked why deaths remained unchecked, BRD Medical College principal Dr PK Singh said: “Brain fever is common in this area. Apart from encephalitis, patients of other diseases also report to the hospital in large numbers. Most of the patients who died were brought here in an extremely critical condition.”
Acute Encephalitis Sydrome is a water-borne disease but pigs act as the host of the JE carrier.
In view of the severity of encephalitis cases reported from over 36 east UP districts and Nepal in the last 10 years, former BRD Medical College principals Dr KP Kushwaha and Dr RP Singh have sent many letters to the state and the central governments, seeking funds for special encephalitis units, upgradation of hospital and recruitment of staff but their demands went unfulfilled, apparently due to lack of interest to save innocent lives.
Dr KP Kushwaha had sent a letter on February 14, 2016 to the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) chairperson, demanding Rs 39.99 crore for improving health facilities at the BRD Medical College, but the funds were not allocated .
The 100-bed ward, which came up during the Akhilesh regime, is also poorly equipped. The existing facilities seem too little for the huge inflow of patients. Children can be seen sharing beds. The construction of a 500-bed ward, approved by the Akhilesh government, has not picked up pace yet.
The 228-bed paediatric ward has a 50-bed ICU equipped with just 12 body warmers against the requirement of 50, forcing the staff to accommodate four children on each bed, a condition which lowers the quality of treatment and exposes them to the danger of infection.
Over 600 patients report to the paedtriatic department every month.
Most of the paramedical staff deployed at encephalitis ward and physical medicine and rehabilitation (PMR) centre have been hired on contract but not paid their salaries for the last 27 months, discouraging them from discharging their duty with the enthusiasm and energy required for the job.
Eight out of 11 staffers at the PMR centre quit their job as they were not paid for 27 months, said a staffer who refused to be named.
The PMR centre provides treatment and counselling to encephalitis disabled children. The rehabilition centre was set up under the previous state government by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPR). It was to be taken over by the central government but that didn’t happen.
Rambhawan, an attendant, said: “Ministers have made tall promises over the last several years to improve health services but nothing has changed here.”
A survey conducted by an NGO claimed that 74% of children who died at the BRD Medical College belonged to families whose income was less then Rs 2000 per month. They include daily wagers, rickshaw pullers, small farmers and masons.
Earlier this year, chief minister Yogi Adityanath had launched a Japanese Encephalitis (JE) vaccination drive from his hometown Gorakhpur.
After the August 10-11 tragedy, he launched a sanitation drive from Gorakhpur, blaming insanitary conditions for the current situation.