17 Agosto 2017 07:48
The incident has been described as a massacre
Distraught parents watched their children die one by one as oxygen supplies at the hospital ran out.
When hospital staff gave Zahid Ali a manual resuscitator and told him to pump it himself to keep his daughter breathing he knew that something had gone wrong. Despite his best attempts to save his five-year-old daughter, Khushi, she 'became breathless, then turned "stiff and cold."' She was pronounced dead several hours later.
The horrific incident occurred on Thursday night at a hospital in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. Hospital staff and family members fought to keep the children alive with manual resuscitator bags after the hospital's supply of liquid oxygen was cut off due to an unpaid bill.
At least 60 children died on Thursday night, and two more in the early hours of Friday morning. 'We saw children dying around us,' said the father of one victim, who gave his name as Vijay. 'Obviously, it's the hospital's fault. So many children have died because of them. My son was fine until nighttime, then something wrong happened.'
The hospital allegedly owed $89,750 to a medical supply company called Pushpa Sales Private Limited. The firm had written letters to the hospital and district magistrate for the past six months demanding payment.
The company asserted that the hospital was violating the terms of its contract by running a balance of more than $15,625. The agreement expired on 31 July, and Pushpa discontinued the oxygen supply on 4 August.
Debate now rages as to who is to blame for the tragedy. The Indian prime minister has accused the hospital and local health authorities for negligence in allowing the hospital to be left without oxygen supplies. However, officials at the state hospital have denied that the deaths were caused by a shortage of oxygen. They and state leaders blamed many of the deaths on encephalitis, a mosquito-borne virus that ravages India’s most populous state every year. They claim that more than 60 deaths that have occurred in the hospital since the beginning of August are due to this and a variety of other causes.
Hospital officials also assert that sufficient alternative oxygen supplies had been provided. However, hospital staff have contested this statement, saying that they had written to the hospital's chief medical officer to warn him that supplies were low and would not last past Thursday evening. 'The guilty will not be spared,' said Yogi Adityanath, the state's chief minister, in a press conference on Saturday.
While authorities attempt to get to the bottom of the tragic event, mourning parents doubt they will ever be told who is responsible for what happened to their children. 'Of course I would like to know what happened to my child,' said Zahid. 'But will they tell us? They never do, and does it even matter as my daughter is dead.'