The death of 23 children in Gorakhpur district of Uttar Pradesh has raised questions on the government’s outlook towards health care facilities and its capacity to utilise the assigned funds properly. Allegations were made that the deaths were caused because a private firm decided to cut oxygen supply to the medical facility as the medical facility hadn’t paid dues.
The state government had allocated Rs 4,479.5 crore in 2016-17, under the National Health Mission of which around Rs 19.22 crore was allocated for purchasing required medical equipment, according to government reports.
Union Health Minister JP Nadda has also said that India doesn’t face a shortage of funds for healthcare, but that it isn’t allocating these wisely, as reported by Livemint.
“We have also sought a report; strict action will be taken against the guilty. BRD Medical College is suffering from the overburden of patients. They get far too many patients beyond their capacity to handle. We need to work out a plan and strengthen the periphery of more medical facilities in Uttar Pradesh,” Health Secretary CK Mishra was quoted in the Livemint.
The District Magistrate of Gorakhpur, had submitted a report on August 11 regarding the shortage of oxygen and how the hospital still managed to arrange cylinders. On August 10, the hospital ran out of oxygen and witnessed deaths of 23 children.
This crisis has not only put a spotlight on the state’s health crisis, but also on the fact that Gorakhpur has always been battling the long-standing problem of improper health care infrastructure.
Gorakhpur has 37% shortage of health sub centres and only 45% villages have an access a sub-centre in the 5 km radius, according to Brookings India, a health monitor that conducts research based on public health data.
The survey says that there are no sub-divisional hospitals in the district, which shows the state of poor infrastructure across UP. Incidentally, UP also ranks in the bottom three among all the states in the country’s health infrastructure ranking index.
The health monitor also shows that there is a 95.7% shortage of male health workers in sub-centres across UP. It also showed that a 31% of the sub-centres were found to be without electricity.The director general of Health Services, Jagdish Prasad, also said that apart from the Japanese encephalitis, the district is a hub to other diseases such as malaria. Other issues such as sanitation, drinking water problem, and hygiene issues also add to the state’s health problems.