Over 70 children died at Gorakhpur's Baba Raghav Das hospital last week (PTI)
Many parents are anxiously waiting at Baba Raghav Das hospital's intensive care unit or ICU ward despite over 70 child deaths last week. The tragedy at the Gorakhpur hospital had prompted a public outcry
. Although it remains unclear whether oxygen shortage led to the deaths, patients and doctors at the hospital point toward a larger issue - the poor state of healthcare.
The broken road at the entrance of the emergency ward forms a prelude to the broken departments inside the hospital. Dimly lit corridors are lined with patients, staircases and unused washrooms turn into waiting rooms.
Divya, a mother of a boy, has been sleeping at the hospital foyer for a month. She and her husband travelled 125 kilometres with their son, who could not be treated at a hospital in Azamgarh. "Sonu had fever and is recovering now, thanks to the doctors here. But there isn't even a bench to sit on. The floor is our home," she says.
Gorakhpur's BRD hospital, considered the best in the region, sees hundreds of patients from neighbouring Bihar, other districts of Uttar Pradesh and even Nepal, putting a huge load on the infrastructure and staff.
A report by the Comptroller and Auditor General this year pointed to shortage of clinical equipment at BRD hospital against the minimum requirement prescribed by the regulator Medical Council of India. As against the requirement of 1,683 equipment, the CAG found that BRD Gorakhpur had only 1,225 - hence a shortfall of 27 per cent.
The grandmother of a seven-year-old was seen racing into the ICU at 9 am with a plastic bag filled with cotton and disposable syringes. Salma, whose grandson from Kushinagar has been battling bouts of shock and fever, suffers from encephalitis - but she doesn't know it. "When I asked the doctor what happened to him, they chased me out of the ICU corridor. All they do is ask me to bring cotton, syringes and other medicines because they are not available at the hospital," she said.
Uttar Pradesh needs 50 per cent more primary health centres across the state, according to BRD Medical College's former principal Dr KP Khushwaha. "The existing primary health centres lack proper infrastructure. Some ailments that can be attended to at the primary level end up coming to BRD, further burdening the doctors at the hospital, especially during monsoon when encephalitis is at its peak," Dr Khushwaha told NDTV.
The Yogi Adityanath government will have to pay attention to the hospital now and improve its infrastructure after last week's tragedy, say doctors at BRD's ICU ward who asked not to be named.
"We work 18 hours a day and sometimes even a double shift. Punish those who are negligent but no one person is to be blamed. The failures run deep into the healthcare system," a junior resident doctor at BRD hospital said.
On August 13, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had allowed journalists to enter the ICU wards in a bid to ease pressure on the authorities over allegations that they were not being transparent with the matter.
Even doctors and nurses were seen filming the journalists inside the ICU ward. On why they were doing it, a nurse said, "It is always the doctor who is blamed. Should any of these children develop an infection, we have proof that it was not our negligence but outsiders were allowed inside the ICU at the behest of the chief minister?"