In a new development on tragic Gorakhpur incident in which several children lost their lives, Dr Rajeev Mishra, the principal of the college, who took responsibility for the deaths and resigned on August 12 claimed that Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath visit and bureaucratic procedures caused delay in clearing the oxygen vendor’s bill payments.
Earlier the state government claimed he had been suspended. The state minister for medical education, Ashutosh Tandon, said the government had released funds for the oxygen supply company on August 5, and blamed the principal for not making payments in time.
According to Scroll.in, Mishra defended himself. “The cut in supply of oxygen is not my fault,” he said.
Mishra claimed that he had written at least three or four letters to the state medical education department in July, asking for the release of about Rs 2 crore allocated to the college in the state budget. The funds were released on August 5. “But, you must understand, August 5 was a Saturday,” he said. “The dispatch from the state reached us only on August 7.”
The process of paying a bill involves clearance from the treasury department, said Mishra. The college sends a bill voucher to the treasury, which is verified by officials, who send back a token. The college sent the voucher on August 7. “On August 8, the token from the treasury was released,” he said.
But, on August 9, Chief Minister Adityanath came on a visit to the hospital, which kept the hospital administration busy, claimed the former principal. It was only on August 10 that that the hospital could send the token to the bank for the transfer of Rs 52 lakh to Pushpa Sales’ account. “We do not do a direct bank transfer via RTGS [real time gross settlement],” said Mishra. He explained that because Pushpa Sales and the hospital have accounts in different banks, the inter-bank transfer took a day.
Mishra left for Rishikesh on the night of August 9 as a member of a technical committee overseeing the establishment of a laboratory. In the afternoon of August 10, he got a call from Pushpa Sales that the next truck with the liquid oxygen would not be sent.
“He [the owner of Pushpa Sales] has been sending letters threatening to cut the oxygen supply so many times,” said Mishra. “Payments have been delayed, but we have always paid him. I explained to him that it was the bank’s delay and that he would get his payment.”
Mishra said the hospital did not expect the company to cut off supplies.
The money was transferred on August 11. By then, several wards of the hospital had spent the night struggling to ensure oxygen supply to patients, including newborn babies in the neonatal Intensive Care Unit. A statement released by the hospital said after the supply ran out at 7.30 pm on August 10, 52 reserve cylinders were pressed into service.
The state health minister Siddharth Nath Singh admitted that between 11.30 pm and 1.30 am, there were not enough cylinders in the children’s wards. But he said very few children had died in those intervening hours. Listing the causes for all the deaths, he claimed that 23 deaths of children in a single day were normal for the 950-bed hospital. But hospital administrators elsewhere in India say regardless of whether a disruption in oxygen supply caused the deaths, the fact that such a large hospital was negligent in maintaining its oxygen supply was a matter of serious concern.
It finally took the hospital more than 72 hours to restore the liquid oxygen supply. The trucks carrying liquid oxygen arrived in the early hours of Sunday morning, refilling the tank. In the hospital’s oxygen supply department, the dial marks began to indicate oxygen was available, and wards began to switch from cylinders back to piped oxygen.
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