Gorakhpur: Baba Raghav Das Medical College is a government-run hospital-cum-medical college in Gorakhpur, which has seen as many as 1250 deaths this year, 290 of which occurred in August alone.
The medical college, which was setup in 1972, made it to the news in early August when 30 children died in two days, inciting outrage in India and around the world. Despite the outrage, a deeper investigation reveals widespread apathy from the central and state governments, hospital administration and doctors for years on end.
About 10,000 infants have died in the hospital since it began operating. According to reports, an average of 250 children have died in the hospital every year, mostly of encephalitis, and another 300 children become invalid.
The signboard outside ward 100 leads on to a reception, which is always full of people, waiting their turn, while many others rest on the ground in beds of newspapers. A few metres inside away is the ICU, which is always up and running.
From outside, the hospital looks like any other government hospital with people thronging the corridors and waiting halls, but the dirt and chaos of the waiting halls are seen in the wards too. It is very easy to notice dogs strolling about and entering chambers that would be out of bounds even for common people in most private hospitals. It is a common sight to see a bed shared by more than one patient in the pediatric wards. There is no air conditioning, except in the ICU.
Johni Devi, who lives in Jungle Pakhri Gaon in Gorakhpur, has been at the hospital often. Two of her children have died here while undergoing treatment and the third one has become invalid. Although she holds the hospital responsible for their deaths and infirmities, there is no other place to go.
Pramila Yadav of Siddharthnagar lost her daughter to encephalitis at the hospital. Her three-year-old son is now admitted here suffering from the same disease. She is afraid she will lose him too. She has been at the hospital for over a month and says that every death makes her more restless. She has seen over 200 deaths in just one month.
According to most patients’ relatives, a shortage of attendants, doctors and proper equipment, inadequate wards and the lack of attention to maintenance and hygiene are the key causes reasons for the deaths.
Besides the hospital, there are 20 health centres catering to the rural areas. But most of them are ill equipped. According to Sudarshan, another resident of Jungle Pakhri Gaon, the medicines these health centres provide are usually expired and make the children more sick, so they have stopped going to these centres altogether.
Patients from 36 districts in Uttar Pradesh depend on BRD Medical College in Gorakhpur.
All pictures by Debalin Roy.