Probe rules out oxygen shortage in child deaths in India's Gorakhpur

A federal government team argues that the number of children's deaths is fewer this year.

More than 70 children have died at a government-run hospital in northern India, allegedly due to lack of oxygen supply to the wards housing the sickAFP/Getty Images

Disruption in oxygen supply is unlikely to have been the cause of recent mass deaths of children in Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh, in India, a federal government team probing the tragedy has said in its initial report. The expert panel has also found "fewer children" have died compared to the same time last year.

More than 70 children have died at the Baba Raghav Das Medical College hospital within a week's time, with parents blaming the deaths on shortage in oxygen supply. The Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) government led by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has been under fire for the deaths and rights groups have alleged criminal medical negligence.

"As per information and data provided to us, it doesn't look like the deaths have all happened due to a shortage of oxygen. As per the records, we have fewer deaths when compared to the figures at the same time last year," Harish Chellani, a member of the three-member team, told The Hindu newspaper. The team members are experts from local hospitals and the health ministry.

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"In fact, the number of deaths has reduced compared to last year. The committee had submitted an interim report on Monday (14 August) and we are all set to submit the final report today to the Health and Family Welfare Ministry [in Delhi]," added Chellani.

The children reportedly died due to encephalitis. Some of them were premature babies undergoing neonatal treatment in a special ward.

Chellani went on to say: "This is a special care hospital where these cases are coming thick. When we looked into the data and case sheet we really didn't find that actually...Other pre-existent conditions were there."

At least one of the affected parents has filed a formal complaint against the hospital and the state's health minister alleging negligence and poor maintenance of the hospital. "My child died because the hospital didn't pay the oxygen supplier," the complaint said.

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