LUCKNOW: It’s one of the most chilling stories from back the of the beyond of eastern Uttar Pradesh, expanding over four decades. More than 25,000 children, a majority of them below four weeks of age, have died due to encephalitis and other vector-borne diseases in Gorakhpur and surrounding districts. This is the official figure. Unofficially, the number could be more than double.
This August, 418 children died in Gorakhpur’s Baba Raghav Das Medical College’s Nehru Hospital, a majority of them due to vector-borne diseases, including encephalitis. The hospital gets patients from entire eastern UP, Bihar and Nepal.
According to data provided by the medical college, out of the 418 dead children, 236 were unnamed and below four weeks of age. They were admitted to neonatal and paediatric intensive care units (NICU and PICU) of the hospital.
The total number of casualties this year has been 1,378 since January. The average number of deaths till July this year was around 130-140. Giving a month-wise breakup, college principal Dr P K Singh said that toll in January was 152, in February 122, March 159, April 123, May 139, June 137 and 128 in July. It spiralled to 418 in August, putting the hospital in the spotlight of international media for wrong reasons.
Dr Kafeel Khan, Gorakhpur doctor blamed for the death of 30 children at the hospital, was arrested on Saturday. Khan is among seven people named in a case registered over the death of the 30 children within 48 hours at the college on August 10-11.
The reason for such high casualty figures is the crumbling health system at the primary and community level. “PHCs are good for delivery of pregnant women if midwives are available,” says a doctor.
Shortage of doctors and medical attendants at ill-equipped and shabbily maintained PHCs and CHC adds to the woes. PHCs and CHCs usually have only a general physician and two Ayush medicos.
Between the monsoon-hit July and September and floods ravaging the region, nearly 200 patients a day inflicted by viral infections like dengue, swine flu and cholera arrive at PHCs.
In Gorakhpur district, the sanctioned staff of doctors is 284, too less vis-a-vis regular outbreaks of cholera and other viral infections. At present, there are only 201 doctors across PHCs and CHCs in the district. Rampant private practice by PHC doctors is another bane hitting the medical scenario.
In Gorakhpur division, the only tertiary level intervention is available at Baba Raghav Das Medical College to combat encephalitis across 15 districts and Bihar and Nepal.