Over 60 children have died in the last five days at a hospital in UP's Gorakhpur (PTI photo)
Lucknow: Hours after Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath visited the BRD Medical College hospital in Gorakhpur, where 63 children died last week, the government removed the doctor under whose watch the oxygen shortage of Thursday took place. During his visit, the Chief Minister had underscored the importance of investigation, promising that the punishment to the guilty will "set a standard". Yogi Adityanath, who was accompanied by Union Health Minister JP Nadda, said Prime Minister Narendra Modi was "concerned" about the situation and called up to offer every possible help.
Here are the latest developments in this big story:
Dr Kafeel Ahmad Khan was in charge of the paediatrics ward for a few months and the oxygen shortage on Thursday night took place under his watch. On Sunday, government sources said he failed to take action on a letter was written on Thursday by those in charge of oxygen supply, asking for emergency measures to get oxygen.
On Thursday, the hospital had been functioning without any oxygen cylinders for two hours. Critics and parents have blamed the oxygen shortage for some of the deaths - a claim the hospital has denied.
Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath said he was at the hospital on August 9, but no one informed him of the situation. "I was here on the 9th and I categorically asked about encephalitis but no one informed me. We made payment on August 7. Why didn't the hospital administration make the payment?" he said.
"For the last two to three days, the news that has been pouring in, PM Modi has been concerned. He called me to offer all sorts of support," Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath said. Cautioning the media against "fake reporting" he asked reporters to "go inside the wards" and report the situation first-hand.
Ruling out a separate investigation by the Centre, Health Minister JP Nadda told NDTV earlier on Sunday, "The state government has the full support of the central government". He also announced that the Centre will set up a regional medical centre in Gorakhpur for research into children's diseases.
The Chief Minister earlier said the role of the oxygen vendor at the Baba Raghav Das Medical College will be probed. Raids have been conducted at the Lucknow-based firm, which stopped supply of oxygen to the hospital as previous bills were not paid.
The deaths sparked a political firestorm as opposition parties slammed the Yogi Adityanath-led BJP government in the state, accusing it of negligence. "Families of the dead were sent off with the bodies, they did not even do autopsies... extremely unfortunate," former Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav tweeted on Friday. "I am pained beyond words," said Congress President Sonia Gandhi.
Thousands have died of encephalitis in Gorakhpur since the first case was discovered in 1978. The Chief Minister, who represented Gorakhpur in Parliament for nearly 20 years, had held dirty surroundings and open defecation responsible for the deaths.