Did 60 Children Die Because of an Unpaid Bill?

That's the allegation against a hospital in India's Uttar Pradesh state
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 14, 2017 9:26 AM CDT
Children receive treatment at the state-run Baba Raghav Das Medical College Hospital in Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh, India, on Sunday.   (AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh)
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(Newser) – In a five-day span at a single hospital in India, 60 children have died, 34 of them infants. The rash of deaths, which the Independent reports began last Monday, has led to the suspension of the head of the hospital in Uttar Pradesh state, and it's also spurred a string of questions and finger-pointing. Reuters cites Indian media's take: that some of the deaths were due to a lack of liquid oxygen, with the hospital's supply having been cut off due to unpaid bills. Rajeev Misra oversaw the state-run Baba Raghav Das Medical College Hospital in Gorakhpur before his suspension, and he backs up that assertion, telling the media on Saturday that "I wrote at least three letters" to the government requesting money. A Home Ministry rep was quoted as saying 21 of the deaths were the result of the oxygen shortfall, reports the Washington Post.

But other officials and a hospital doctor cited by Sky News say the oxygen supply wasn't a factor. They claim mosquito-borne encephalitis was the cause of 35% of the infant deaths, with the rest being due to unspecified causes. State officials say they were able to bolster the oxygen supply after reaching out to area nursing homes. But parents tell Sky the oxygen supply dried up Thursday night and that parents were offered manual resuscitator bags. The Post obtained documents showing the hospital had been receiving letters regarding unpaid bills for six months, and that nearly $90,000 was owed to a medical supply company. The chief minister of Uttar Pradesh has pledged to get to the bottom of the situation: "We will know whether it was because of an oxygen shortage or due to a lack of proper treatment. Those found guilty will not be spared." (Read more India stories.)

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