64 deaths at India hospital without oxygen

August 12, 2017

At least 64 children have died over six days at a government hospital in northern India that suffered oxygen shortages, officials said Saturday.

Authorities have launched an inquiry into the causes of the disruption but denied reports that it had caused the deaths at the Baba Raghav Das Hospital in Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh state.

Indian media said 30 children died on Thursday and Friday because of the lack of oxygen on wards. Suppliers' bills had allegedly not been paid.

"Sixty patients have died at the in the last five days but we don't think it's linked to reports of oxygen shortage," Anil Kumar, Gorakhpur's divisional commissioner told AFP.

State health minister Sidharth Nath Singh announced later that four more deaths had been reported Saturday, taking the toll to 64 over the six days starting Monday.

Singh denied that any of the deaths were linked to the oxygen shortage.

Twenty-three children died on Thursday, when, according to a statement shared by the office of state chief minister, "the pressure of the liquid became low and 52 reserve oxygen cylinders were pressed into service".

The office of Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Twitter that Modi was "monitoring the situation in Gorakhpur" and was in touch with state authorities. Modi's conservative nationalist party controls the state.

'All hell broke loose'

The Hindustan Times newspaper on Saturday described chaotic scenes at the hospital as oxygen supply was disrupted.

"Even as 90 jumbo oxygen cylinders were pressed into service to maintain the supply on Friday, the hospital ran out of oxygen around 1.00am," it said.

"All hell broke loose," the report added.

"What followed was complete chaos as panic-stricken relatives of patients ran for help, and with the support of hospital staff tried to maintain supply of oxygen... using artificial manual breathing bags (AMBB).

"However several patients started collapsing due to inadequate supply," it added.

One uncle of an 11-year-old girl, Vandana, who died at the hospital, echoed local media reports about the chaos.

"We didn't know what was happening at the time. The staff just told us to keep pressing AMBB after every count till three. We kept doing that for some time," he told ABP news channel.

The region is one of India's poorest and registers hundreds of child deaths each year from Japanese Encephalitis and Acute Encephalitis Syndrome, which is rife in parts of eastern and northern India.

"We will be getting more liquid oxygen cylinders tonight or tomorrow, and have also cleared the dues of the supplier," district official Kumar told AFP.

He added that the deaths could be due to "natural" causes, as many patients admitted are in "serious" condition.

India's Nobel Peace laureate Kailash Satyarthi, a campaigner for children's rights, described the deaths as "a massacre" on Twitter.

"Thirty kids died in hospital without oxygen. This is not a tragedy. It's a massacre. Is this what 70 years of freedom means for our children?" he said.

The state's health minister suspended the hospital's top official, holding him accountable for the oxygen supply until the completion of a formal investigation.

"The reasons for the disruption of oxygen supply are being investigated but our probe has revealed that no deaths happened because of it," Singh told reporters after a visit to the hospital.

"When you hear about around 23 deaths in a day, it shocks you, and it should," he said.

"But the average daily toll for the month of August (at the hospital) has been 19 to 22 for the last three years," the minister added.

Explore further: Encephalitis kills at least 430 in India

Related Stories

Encephalitis kills at least 430 in India

October 15, 2011
At least 430 people, mainly children, have died from an outbreak of encephalitis in a deeply neglected region of the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, officials said on Saturday.

Dom. Republic health minister axed after 11 child deaths

October 14, 2014
The Dominican Republic's health minister has been fired after 11 children died in three days in a pediatric hospital, officials said, citing "deficiencies" in the medical team.

Addition of in-home noninvasive ventilation to oxygen therapy improves outcomes following COPD exacerbation

May 21, 2017
Among patients with an excess of carbon dioxide in their blood (persistent hypercapnia) following a flare-up (acute exacerbation) of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), in-home use of a mask and machine to support ...

India minister vows to eradicate deadly encephalitis

June 10, 2014
India's new health minister on Tuesday ordered 'extraordinary steps' to end the deadly disease encephalitis, after it claimed the lives of 44 children in the country in the past fortnight.

Saving lives in poor countries is about adapting to what's already working there

May 4, 2017
Each year, 5.9 million children under the age of five die, mostly from preventable causes. That's more than 16,000 children every day – and more than 8,000 of these are deaths that could have been prevented with simple, ...

Recommended for you

Groundbreaking investigative effort identifies gonorrhea vaccine candidates

September 19, 2017
Researchers at Oregon State University have identified a pair of proteins that show promise as the basis for a gonorrhea vaccine.

Snail fever progression linked to nitric oxide production

September 14, 2017
Bilharzia, caused by a parasitic worm found in freshwater called Schistosoma, infects around 200 million people globally and its advance can lead to death, especially in children in developing countries.

Systems analysis points to links between Toxoplasma infection and common brain diseases

September 13, 2017
More than 2 billion people - nearly one out of every three humans on earth, including about 60 million people in the United States - have a lifelong infection with the brain-dwelling parasite Toxoplasma gondii.

Study clears important hurdle toward developing an HIV vaccine

September 13, 2017
An international team of researchers has demonstrated a way of overcoming one of the major stumbling blocks that has prevented the development of a vaccine against HIV: the ability to generate immune cells that stay in circulation ...

As 'flesh-eating' Leishmania come closer, a vaccine against them does, too

September 13, 2017
Parasites that ulcerate the skin, can disfigure the face, and may fatally mutilate its victim's internal organs are creeping closer to the southern edges of the United States.

Promising clinical trial results could give doctors a new tool against drug-resistant strains of malaria parasite

September 13, 2017
Tulane University researchers have developed a new drug that is effective against non-severe cases of malaria, according to results from an FDA-supervised clinical trial published in the latest issue of The Lancet Infectious ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.