Aug. 13 (UPI) — The government of Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, has suspended Dr. Rajeev Misra, chief of the hospital where dozens of children have perished in the last week. The head of the hospital’s pediatrics department, Dr. Kafeel Khan, has also been suspended.
Since August 7, at least 70 children at the state-run Baba Raghav Das Medical College in Gorakhpur have died. The deaths are being blamed on a disruption to patients’ oxygen supply after bills to a private oxygen provider went unpaid.
Misra, the suspended hospital chief, has accused the government of failing to respond to requests for money to pay the oxygen supplier.
On Sunday, Yogi Adityanath, the state’s chief minister, and Jagat Prakash Nadda, India’s health minister, visited the hospital. Both ministers promised a thorough investigation and a severe punishment for any negligible parties found responsible for the deaths.
“We will know whether it was because of an oxygen shortage or due to a lack of proper treatment,” Adityanath said. “Those found guilty will not be spared.”
“Stringent action will be taken against the guilty, whether in Gorakhpur or elsewhere,” Adityanath added.
However, the state’s chief called for those demanding swift justice to have patience and wait for the conclusion of the investigation.
Uttar Pradesh’s state congress has been highly critical of the government.
“The state government is responsible for their murder,” congress committee chief Raj Babbar told reporters. “This government is a killer and I want to ask how many more children will be killed.”
Last week, Adityanath denied that funding requests have gone unanswered.
In an effort to meet medical needs in the region — and ease local tensions — the Indian government has promised to set up a medical center to study and treat ailments affecting children. Every year, encephalitis outbreaks in Uttar Pradesh kill hundreds.
“Before coming here, I approved the establishment of a regional medical research centre in Gorakhpur at a cost of Rs 85 crore which would conduct research on the infections among children and the possible reasons,” the health minister said.