Thirty children, including 17 newborns, have died in the last 48 hours after oxygen supply to the children's department in Baba Raghav Das Medical College and Hospital in Uttar Pradesh's Gorakhpur district was disrupted, ANI reported on Friday. "It's normal for 10 deaths to take place in encephalitis and neo-natal wards", he said.
The oxygen supply was allegedly stopped after the hospital failed to clear the suppliers' bill of Rs 67 lakh, the Hindustan Times hadreported.
All these deaths occured within an interval of 48 hours and were due to scarcity and disruptive supply of oxygen which started from early Thursday morning. On Wednesday, the liquid oxygen tanks had gone empty and the supplied oxygen cylinders had got exhausted. And almost 23 passed away by Friday afternoon, he was reported as saying.
The hospital is in chief minister Yogi Adityanath's constituency and he took stock of arrangements at encephalitis wards during his recent two-day visit to Gorakhpur.
The incident comes barely two days after Yogi Adityanath's visit to the hospital to review its functioning. Father of an infant from Padrauna, accused authority of lying to media about oxygen shortage.
Hospital officially denied the shortage of oxygen and has said that the all deaths were due to encephalitis.More news: Suspect in Missouri police officer's slaying is captured
"Two days back the company had informed hospital administration that it would not be able to supply oxygen unless the dues are cleared".
The oxygen suppliers, reported to be a Lucknow-based firm, was provided half of the outstanding due.
District Magistrate Rajiv Rautela has been quoted saying seven deaths were reported since Thursday night to Friday noon.
Siddharth Nath Singh, the health minister of UP, said: "The death of children is very unfortunate and the government will set up an inquiry committee to ascertain if any lapse has occurred". This prompted the government to say on Twitter that "No patient has died at the BRD medical college due to shortage of oxygen supplies".
In her statement, Sonia Gandhi said that her heart goes out to the families of the innocent children who fell prey to "gross negligence and incorrigible misconduct on the part of the authorities".
The BRD medical college has been recording deaths of children from mosquito-borne Japanese encephalitis and acute encephalitis syndrome for years.