Sunday, August 13, 2017

Sunday Globe Special: Out of Oxygen in India

"35 children die in north Indian hospital in 3 days" by Biswajeet Banerjee Associated Press  August 12, 2017

LUCKNOW, India — Parents of at least 35 children who have died in a state-run hospital in northern India over the past three days have alleged that the fatalities were due to the lack of a sufficient oxygen supply in the children’s ward.

District Magistrate Rajiv Rautela said Saturday that the deaths of the children being treated for different ailments at the Baba Raghav Das Medical College Hospital in Gorakhpur city in Uttar Pradesh state were due to natural causes.

He denied that an insufficient oxygen supply led to their deaths.

Parents said the oxygen supply to the ward ran out Thursday night and that patients’ families were given self-inflating bags to help the children breathe.

‘‘That’s the time when the death of the children peaked,’’ said Mritunjaya Singh, whose 7-month-old son was admitted to the hospital and was not among the dead.

The Uttar Pradesh government has ordered an investigation.

Prashant Trivedi, the state’s top health official, acknowledged that there was a problem in the pipeline supplying oxygen.

‘‘But the situation was managed through oxygen cylinders,’’ Trivedi said. ‘‘The hospital administration has enough supply of cylinders in its stock. So the report about death of children because of oxygen issue is false.’’

The parents said the company that supplies oxygen to the hospital had earlier threatened to stop the distribution of oxygen unless the government paid its long-overdue bills.

Rautela said the hospital owed $106,000 to the company, but added that it had adequate numbers of oxygen cylinders.

Parmatma Gautam, whose 1-month-old nephew, Roshan, died when the oxygen supply stopped, said the hospital authorities and the district administration were trying to cover up their failure to pay the bills on time.

‘‘We saw our baby struggling to breathe and we couldn’t do anything,’’ Gautam said as tears flowed down his weather-beaten cheek.

The family had rushed the newborn to the hospital from neighboring Siddharthnagar district on Aug. 9 because he had a high fever.

‘‘We are now going back with his body,’’ Gautam sobbed.

The federal health ministry sent a team of specialists to the hospital Saturday to verify what caused the deaths at the facility, which provides health care to a vast swath of Uttar Pradesh and neighboring Bihar state.

Opposition leaders took to social media to blame Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, which rules the state, for its neglect and indifference to health.

Opposition Congress Party Vice President Rahul Gandhi tweeted: ‘‘Deeply pained. My thoughts are with the families of the victims. BJP government is responsible and should punish the negligent who caused this tragedy.’’

Some of the children had been treated for encephalitis, a disease that preys on the young and malnourished and is rampant in the state during the monsoon season, which runs from June till September.

The hospital, which has become a major center for children with encephalitis, has treated nearly 370 cases in the last two months. Of these, 129 children died, said Satish Chandra, a hospital spokesman.

Health activists said successive governments had ignored the threat posed by encephalitis as it was a disease that affected poor, malnourished children.

‘‘Encephalitis has a mortality rate as high as 30 percent. The government needs to tackle it with a rigorous campaign,’’ said Dr. R. N. Singh, who has been leading the fight against the disease in Gorakhpur district.

‘‘Commonly, this disease affects the voiceless poor, so it has not got the attention it warrants,’’ Singh said.

Gorakhpur is about 185 miles southeast of the state capital, Lucknow.


Rushing to catch up on India and the high altitude could be a problem. That would draw in Pakistan in what is sure to be a battle front of WWIII. The troops are on their way and the call has gone out: Arise, and let that be your last battleground!

Thus the Indian troops boarded the trains only to find difficulties in getting to the front

"Not all is well with state-owned Indian Railways. India’s economy has boomed in recent decades, and dozens of private airlines have emerged to serve the growing upper middle class, but for tens of millions of Indians living in the hinterlands or unable to afford air travel, trains are their transportation lifeline. It can be a dangerous lifeline. Blame should fall on successive governments and railway ministers that have starved the organization of funds, denying it key resources to upgrade critical equipment and pushing it to the brink of bankruptcy, said former Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi. Trivedi said the railways need $3 billion to $3.8 billion simply to replace old equipment....."

Which goes back some 160 years and British rule, and I would avoid the trains if I were a tourist.

India's treasury began to run low. There was talk of a nuclear attack to save the situation and prevent a nuclear inferno, but that quickly died.

So keep your eye on Kashmir. The choice will either be referendum or war.


"A suicide bomber on a motorcycle rammed a military truck Saturday, killing eight soldiers and seven civilian bystanders in the southwestern city of Quetta, the Pakistani military said. The attack also wounded 25 people, including 15 civilians. Incendiary explosives were used in the assault, which sparked fires in nearby vehicles. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack (AP)."


"Indian hospital chief suspended after child deaths" Washington Post  August 13, 2017

NEW DELHI — State officials in India have suspended the director of a hospital where an estimated 60 children have died in the past week, including several young patients who died as oxygen supplies ran out Thursday after a billing dispute with a supplier.

Officials in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh have suspended Rajeev Misra, the head of the government-run Baba Raghav Das Medical College hospital in Gorakhpur, where at least 30 children died Thursday night and into Friday after its supply of liquid oxygen was disrupted over an unpaid bill, officials said.

Witnesses had described a chaotic scene between 11 p.m. Thursday and 2 a.m. Friday as medical practitioners — the tanks running dry — handed out manual resuscitator bags to families in a desperate attempt to save the tiny patients.

‘‘We saw children dying around us,’’ said the father of one victim, who gave his name only as Vijay. ‘‘Obviously, it’s the hospital’s fault. So many children have died because of them. My son was fine until nighttime, then something wrong happened.’’

The state’s health minister and hospital officials have denied charges that the deaths were caused by the oxygen bill dispute, and the state’s chief minister, Yogi Adityanath, blamed unsanitary conditions and the spread of the mosquito-borne disease encephalitis, which afflicts many children in India during the monsoon season.

Parents of the victims described feelings of anger and bewilderment over the incident, saying they were struggling with guilt over not being able to save their children.

The deaths provoked widespread outrage and condemnation across the political spectrum and on social media, where a political cartoon spread that showed the babies as little angels hovering in the sky as an Indian government official tries without success to reach them.

‘‘Thirty kids died in hospital without oxygen. This is not a tragedy. It’s a massacre,’’ Indian Nobel Peace Prize winner Kailash Satyarthi, a child advocate, said in a tweet. ‘‘Is this what 70 years of freedom means for our children?’’ The country is set to celebrate the 70th anniversary of its independence from Britain on Tuesday.

Kind of ruined the party, huh?