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Two Years After Gorakhpur Deaths, Kafeel Khan Absolved of Charges

The doctor was held responsible for the deaths of more than 60 children and spent nine months behind bars.

New Delhi: Kafeel Khan, the doctor from BRD Medical College and Hospital in Gorakhpur, who tried to save children in 2017 when the hospital ran out of oxygen, has been cleared by an inquiry committee. His case has been dragging on since August 2017 and he was even imprisoned for about nine months on allegations of corruption, medical negligence and dereliction of duty after more than 60 children died in the hospital due to lack of oxygen.

In August 2017, oxygen supply ran out in this government hospital in Uttar Pradesh and several children and infants died that night as a result. A massive controversy ensued for months.

Kafeel Khan, a paediatrician working at the hospital, had tried to source oxygen cylinders and bring them to the hospital to save the children.

While he was initially hailed as a hero, things soon turned against him. Khan was placed on suspension by the hospital after the administration held him responsible for some of the things that went wrong on that night in August. He was also imprisoned for nine months and released after.

Also Read: Gorakhpur Deaths: Adityanath Government Ignored SOS on Oxygen Payments for Months

Now two years later, an internal hospital inquiry committee has cleared him of the allegations and said that he was not the nodal officer of the encephalitis ward and thus it was not negligence on his part that led to the deaths.

The inquiry committee has drafted a 15-page report on the incident and it also says that Khan was not responsible for the maintenance, tender or payment of the liquid oxygen at the hospital.

Importantly, it also says that there was, in fact, a shortage of liquid oxygen in the hospital for 54 hours, between August 10-12, 2017.

Since his release, Khan has constantly reiterated his innocence, saying he was wrongfully suspended and imprisoned. He has also held medical camps and checkups across the country. Various civil society activists also wrote letters in his support.

Khan says that the entire tragedy was “man-made” and that there should be a real inquiry along with compensation for the families who lost their children. He says that he was made the scapegoat but the real culprits have still not been made accountable. Khan also remains suspended from the institute.

The Wire’s investigation in 2018 showed that the UP government had ignored several letters from the hospital authorities requesting them to release payments to the company which was supplying oxygen. The company eventually stopped the supply due to unpaid dues climbing into lakhs of rupees.