Kafeel Khan, a doctor who served as the Nodal Officer for the Department of Pediatrics at Baba Raghav Das Medical College in Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s Lok Sabha constituency of Gorakhpur, has been removed from his position. He has been replaced by Bhupendra Sharma. The action follows the tragedy that saw 62 children, including many newborn babies, die at the hospital within days. A total of 30 deaths were reported within a span of 48 hours since Thursday at the medical college and hospital that houses a specialty ward for cases of encephalitis.
While the principal Rajiv Mishra of the college has already been suspended fixing responsibility for the deaths. In his letter to the Director General of Medical Education and Training, the principal said that he tendered his resignation from the post taking the moral responsibility for the recent death of 30 children admitted in the hospital's pediatric ward.
Earlier, Singh and UP Medical Education Minister Ashutosh Tandon had said that the principal was suspended for his "irresponsible act" of allegedly delaying payment to the supplier of oxygen cylinders. The deaths were allegedly caused due to disruption in oxygen supply to the hospital. It was reported that the oxygen supply was hit due to non-clearance of dues to the tune of rs 68 lakh to the supplier agency.
It is in this context that the sacking of Khan assumes significance. Soon after the incident stirred outrage over the incident, media reports hailed Khan as a hero who “ran pillar to post to arrange for oxygen cylinders at the time of crisis.” Some reports even claimed that the doctor spent from his own pocket and arranged for three oxygen cylinders from a private hospital at his own cost to save the dying infants.
However, the government has denied any such claim. “When 52 (oxygen) cylinders were present in stock that night, Dr Khan did nothing extraordinary by bringing 3 cylinders,” K K Gupta, Director General, Medical Education, told news agency ANI.
He also refused shortage of oxygen as being behind the children’s deaths. “This is peak season for encephalitis. It's clear these deaths have no relation with shortage of oxygen,” he told ANI.
Commenting on the suspension of the college principal, Gupta said Mishra was suspended because his work was found to be “disorganized and substandard.”
“We have been receiving complaints against him,” he said.
Meanwhile, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on Sunday said that the state government has formed a committee under the chairmanship of Chief Secretary to probe the death of 63 children at Gorakhpur’s BRD Medical College, and that strict action will be taken against those found guilty.
"We have formed a committee led by Chief Secretary and it will submit a report soon. The committee will probe the incident and strict action will be taken against those found guilty," the Chief Minister said after visiting the BRD medical college in the city. He was accompanied by Union Health Minister JP Nadda who said the Centre has sent a team of specialist doctors to the hospital.
Yogi said he had visited the hospital on August 9 and the issue of shortage in oxygen supply was not raised in the high-level meeting that he held. He said Gorakhpur has been suffering from Japanese encephalitis for a long time and as a local MP, he has fought against it from street to Parliament.
It was reported that the funds to clear the oxygen supplier’s dues was transferred to the latter only on Friday, after the deaths grabbed the nation’s attention.