Med­i­cal col­lege chief ar­rested in oxy­gen short­age

Austin American-Statesman - - MORE OF TODAY'S TOP NEWS - Hari Ku­mar and Jef­frey Get­tle­man ©2017 The New York Times

The chief of the In­dian med­i­cal col­lege where dozens of sick chil­dren died ear­lier this month after the oxy­gen sup­ply ran out has been ar­rested on charges of cul­pa­ble homi­cide, In­dian au­thor­i­ties have said.

Dr. Ra­jiv Mishra, who had been chief of Baba Raghav Das Med­i­cal Col­lege in Go­rakh­pur un­til he was re­cently sus­pended, was ar­rested Tues­day along with his wife. On Wed­nes­day, In­dian of­fi­cials dis­closed that 386 chil­dren had died this month at that hos­pi­tal, slightly above av­er­age.

Many peo­ple in In­dia were out­raged by the chil­dren’s deaths after it emerged that the hos­pi­tal had failed to pay its bills to an oxy­gen sup­plier. De­spite re­peated warn­ings from tech­ni­cians within the hos­pi­tal and from the oxy­gen sup­ply com­pany, the oxy­gen sup­ply was al­lowed to dwin­dle to noth­ing.

Hun­dreds of chil­dren were in the hos­pi­tal at the time, many in crit­i­cal con­di­tion and on ven­ti­la­tors, and more than 60 died over a pe­riod of days in mid-Au­gust as the hos­pi­tal’s oxy­gen sup­plies were de­pleted.

Par­ents said that they were given plas­tic hand-op­er­ated re­sus­ci­ta­tors to keep their chil­dren alive, and they blamed the hos­pi­tal for their chil­dren’s deaths.

High-rank­ing gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials in­sisted that the hos­pi­tal’s cen­tral oxy­gen sup­ply sys­tem was empty for only two hours, and that the short­age was not a fac­tor in the chil­dren’s deaths. Sev­eral doc­tors at the hos­pi­tal, though, said some of the chil­dren prob­a­bly did die from the short­age.

“Dr. Mishra is un­der po­lice cus­tody for in­ter­ro­ga­tion, and we are try­ing to ar­rest oth­ers,” said Sat­yarth Anirudha Pankaj, po­lice chief of Go­rakh­pur, dur­ing a tele­phone in­ter­view Wed­nes­day evening.

In ad­di­tion to cul­pa­ble homi­cide, Mishra was charged with cheat­ing, crim­i­nal con­spir­acy and cor­rup­tion by a gov­ern­ment ser­vant.

Mishra’s wife, Porn­ima Shukla, a home­opa­thy doc­tor at another gov­ern­ment hos­pi­tal, was ac­cused of act­ing as a con­duit for bribes.

Po­lice said they plan to ar­rest more peo­ple in con­nec­tion with the oxy­gen short­age, in­clud­ing hos­pi­tal ac­count clerks, doc­tors and ex­ec­u­tives of the oxy­gen sup­ply com­pany.

Of­fi­cials said that the chil­dren who died in the month of Au­gust per­ished from a va­ri­ety of ail­ments, par­tic­u­larly mos­quito-borne Ja­panese en­cephali­tis, which hits that area hard ev­ery year dur­ing the rainy season.

Many chil­dren ar­rive at the hos­pi­tal at death’s door. Doc­tors said it is not un­usual for more than 300 chil­dren to die at the hos­pi­tal in the month of Au­gust. Last Au­gust it was 364.

The Baba Raghav Das col­lege serves a huge area in In­dia’s big­gest state, Ut­tar Pradesh, where the gov­ern­ment health fa­cil­i­ties are widely re­garded as cor­rupt and mis­man­aged.

The hos­pi­tal pro­vides treat­ment to more than 20 neigh­bor­ing dis­tricts, some as far as 200 miles dis­tant, said Dr. K.P. Kush­waha, a for­mer ad­min­is­tra­tor, in an in­ter­view ear­lier this month.

RA­JESH KU­MAR SINGH / AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Chil­dren re­ceive treat­ment ear­lier this month at Baba Raghav Das Med­i­cal Col­lege in Go­rakh­pur, In­dia. Some 386 chil­dren died at the hos­pi­tal this month, which was slightly above av­er­age.

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