LUCKNOW: Five days after tragedy struck Baba Raghav Das (BRD) Medical College in Gorakhpur where over 30 lives were lost in 48 hours between August 9 and 11, stories of dubious dealings, rampant corruption and appalling apathy are flying far and wide.
While state health minister Siddharth Nath Singh, in no uncertain terms, made light of the alleged ‘commission-khori’ (kickbacks) as the reason for the disruption of oxygen supply on August 10-11, the allegation was corroborated by more than one source on the hospital premises with the needle of suspicion pointing to top authorities who were at the helm while the tragedy occurred.
The report of the committee formed by the Gorakhpur district magistrate too has reportedly pointed the finger at gross mismanagement and anomalies.
While a high-level committee under Uttar Pradesh chief secretary Rajive Kumar will probe the angle in detail, negligence in maintaining oxygen supply is a matter of serious concern. As per hospital sources, the payment to the liquid oxygen supplier was delayed as some of the medical college officials were not getting kickbacks.
While talking to the paramedical and other staff of BRD medical college, one can easily gauge the level of rot having seeped in to the system.
The BRD medical college is the only hospital across 15 districts in eastern Uttar Pradesh also catering to patients from Bihar and bordering Nepal. It is the nerve centre to treat patients with encephalitis with a footfall as staggering as 6,000 per day during the monsoons when the epidemic peaks.
The deficiency of life-saving drugs and important equipment like life support systems lying defunct or out of order for long durations are the common phenomenon here.
“This delays even normal surgeries by over a month,” says a junior doctor from the surgery department.
The system of kickbacks is dominant because of which basic maintenance of the machines is compromised. It is outsourced and money plays an important role in the selection of agencies.
The drier sterilisation machines are nowhere in the OT (Operation Theatre). “There is one machine in routine OT but it is also out of order,” said a staff of the surgery department.
“Other machines are also awaiting maintenance and repair but pending payment to agencies concerned and subsequent delay in kickbacks to authorities, in turn, has halted the system,” said another source.
According to a staff of the encephalitis ward, a warmer is urgently needed in the ward to foment ailing children but since the commission deal is stuck, there is further delay in the installation despite repeated reminders by the department.
“Even the chief minister has issued directives in this regard but the greed of top authorities is overriding all orders,” said a doctor requesting anonymity.
A similar scenario crops up when it comes to increasing the bed strength of the encephalitis ward. ACs, OT costume and slippers need to be arranged.
According to highly-placed sources associated with hospital administration, suspended principal Dr RK Mishra ran three pathologies across Gorakhpur. His wife Dr Poornima Shukla, a homoeopath, reportedly calls the shots in the medical college in striking deals and allocating tenders to outsource various operations.
Money has a big role to play even in the inter-departmental transfers and posting of paramedical staff.
“We have to bribe the authorities if we need a transfer to other departments. Money changes hands in the recruitment of lower staff and ward boys,” says a nurse.
However, the officials at the highest level express ignorance about the practices going on in BRD medical college saying the probe will bring each worm out of the can.