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Hospital crisis claims 60 children's lives

China Daily | Updated: 2017-08-14 08:47

A child is seen in the Intensive care unit in the Baba Raghav Das hospital in Gorakhpur district, India August 13, 2017. [Photo/Agencies]

Head of facility suspended as state and local officials trade blame over funding

NEW DELHI - India's northern state of Uttar Pradesh has suspended the head of a hospital where at least 60 children died, while the federal health minister on Sunday vowed action against the culprits, as state and hospital officials traded blame over funding matters.

The government in Uttar Pradesh, run by India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, suspended the head of the staterun BRD Medical College, Rajeev Misra, late on Saturday and ordered an investigation into contracts to supply oxygen.

Media have said the deaths of the children, 34 infants among them, were caused in part by an oxygen shortage after a private supplier withdrew its equipment over unpaid hospital dues.

Hospital officials have denied this, saying alternative supplies had been found, and blamed many of the deaths instead on the disease encephalitis and unspecified issues related to delivery of the infants.

On Sunday, J.P. Nadda, health minister in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's cabinet, visited the hospital in the town of Gorakhpur, 800 kilometers east of New Delhi, accompanied by the state's chief minister, Yogi Adityanath.

Nadda promised "strict action" against the culprits in an interview with the news channel NDTV, before his departure from the Indian capital.

The issue of the unpaid bills for oxygen supply has become a flashpoint in relations between the hospital and the state government, after the suspended hospital chief on Saturday accused state officials of ignoring his requests for money.

"I wrote at least three letters," Misra told television reporters on Saturday, adding that he had even flagged the issue in video conference discussions.

Reuters was unable to immediately contact Misra to seek his comments.

The Uttar Pradesh health minister defended the government's role, saying no issue of unpaid bills had been brought to its attention and all requests for funds were paid promptly.

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