New Delhi: Friday was a day of celebration for Kafeel Khan, measured as it was. After a two-year ordeal that began in August 2017, an internal committee at the hospital where he once worked cleared his name on charges of medical negligence, corruption and dereliction of duty.
The report – even though it is only by a small internal committee within the hospital – has cleared Khan’s name on the various accusations put on him after the BRD Medical College tragedy in Uttar Pradesh’s Gorakhpur in 2017 where oxygen had run out in the hospital, leading to the deaths of a number of children admitted to the hospital that night.
Khan remains suspended from his job since 2017 and the police’s charges against him have not been dropped either. He was also imprisoned for nine months and then released. He still has to face criminal proceedings.
On Friday, when news broke of his small victory, Khan spoke to the press and expressed his happiness.
Despite the pressure on him over the past two years, he did not mince words and kept hitting out strongly at the Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh for what he felt was an excessive and arbitrary use of state police and administration in his case. He has also spoken about finding out who exactly was responsible for the oxygen shortage in the hospital in 2017 and bringing them to justice.
What has Khan done over the last two years?
Even while he fights to get his job back at the government medical college and hospital in Gorakhpur where the children died, he has been busy over the last two years advocating for better public health. Khan is a paediatrician trained at Manipal University, and much of his public health advocacy has been focused on children’s health.
Over the last two years, he has travelled widely across the country holding meetings with many who were keen to talk to him after his release.
“The BRD Medical College tragedy is just the brutal face of the broken health system. I am working with a team of doctors and activists and we have raised a proposal on health for all and a right to healthcare and given it to the current health minister Harsh Vardhan,” said Khan.
When the recent health crisis broke in Bihar in June, where a number of children had again died suspectedly by encephalitis, Khan travelled there and with a team of local doctors, set up health camps for people.
“We spent 15 days there. We spread education and awareness about encephalitis which locals there called ‘chamki bukhaar’. We spoke to parents about what signs to look out for in their children, what first aid to do, where to go to seek treatment and so on.”
“I have done more than 70 medical camps around India, since I was released from jail. We are a group of doctors who go around the country to different poor localities and serve them. We check for health ailments and distribute some basic medicines for free,” says Khan.
The money for the medicines and travel has come from donations by people all around the country who he has been meeting. At health camps, people are treated for minor ailments, given free thermometers and some medication and oral rehydration solutions. He has also re-written a book, which he hopes will be used a manual for medical students at Manipal University where he had studied. He set up an NGO about a year ago and has been organising more events around public health under its banner.
Still suspended from his job
Despite the hospital’s own internal committee absolving him of the accusations made against him, Khan has not been given his job back as a paediatrician at the medical college.
In fact, the government hospital had apparently finished their inquiry and submitted the report in April but for some reason, Khan was given the report only five months later, this week. Khan reckons it might have been due to people being busy with the general elections in May.
“I want my job back with due respect. I am not the culprit,” says Khan about his suspension. He says he will wait and watch what the government does- they may constitute yet another committee to look into the same issue or may accept the committee’s finding. But if they don’t take action on his suspension, Khan says he will go to court.
“The real culprits should be investigated and put in jail. I want the government to publicly give compensation to the parents who lost their children as well,” says Khan.