MUZAFFARPUR (BIHAR): Behari Mahto is frantically pacing with a two-year-old in her arms in ward number 5 of the SKMCH hospital. If her son is not given any treatment, she says, “he will die just like six other children” in her village in Bhagwanpur. There are doctors to examine the patients, but Mahto alleges that her son has not been given any medicine. “Please give him something or he will die,” Mahto pleads with the doctor who examines three other children sharing a single bed.
Beena Devi, who is continuously sprinkling water on her six-year-old daughter lying on the floor, is pleading for the attention of doctors too. “She has high fever. I am doing what doctors asked me to. Let’s see what they say now.”
Among the many worried ‘guardians’ is 14-year-old Muskan, who along with her sick younger sister are following the doctor to make sure eight-year-old Munni gets examined. Muskan is holding Munni’s hands as well as the intravenous fluid being administered to Munni. Muskan says her mother has stepped out to get food for them but has instructed her to make sure Munni gets examined by the doctor.
“My father is an auto driver in Delhi. I take care of my siblings when parents are not around. Father will be coming soon. Many children in our village have fallen ill,” she says. Such scenes are common at the state-run Sri Krishna Medical College and Hospital, which is flooded with patients of Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES). Besides the serpentine queue of patients, a shortage of space, paucity of doctors, scattered garbage, intermittent power supply and lack of drinking water, highlight the emergency that the hospital is forced to cope with.
Till Wednesday afternoon, the only source of drinking water for the people at the hospital was a hand pump installed in its backyard, close to public toilets. By evening, NGO Parma Foundation placed water bottles, next to a rusted water cooler.
Each bed in the makeshift paediatrics ward have at least two-three children each. But even after accommodating multiple patients on one bed, many sick children are being treated on the floor due to severe space shortage being faced by the hospital. The scene outside the Pediatric Intensive Care Units (PICU) is grimmer. Construction worker Vijay Saini has lost his four-year-old Muskan Kumari to the deadly AES. The family is inconsolable. Kumari was rushed to SKMCH in the morning in a serious condition. Saini and his wife are unable to let go of Muskan who has been handed over to them for her final journey.
Muskan’s grandmother makes repeated calls to the little girl to wake. A weeping Saini is continuously repeating “Kahaan chalgelee beti...aspatal kee laparavhi ne jaan le lee gudiya.”
Outside another PICU, Mithilesh Devi is in tears too. Her six-year-old son who is admitted in PICU-3 is now unconscious, she says.
“He had dal-chawal and was playing. He did not like litchi. He did not have any. He told me he was sleepy but he woke up with high fever and convulsions. We rushed him to our primary health centre in Mustafapur but doctors said it was a case of chamki (local name for AES) and refused to treat him.” Litchi has been linked as a cause for AES by some experts.
Another tiny tot is rushed into the PICU and a nurse can be overheard saying, “where will we keep him. There is no space.”