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Gorakhpur Unhealthy Hospital, Emblem of Indian Health System Deficiencies

Ⓒ AFP – SANJAY KANOJIA – | Patients’ families wait in the Gorakhpur public hospital in northern India on August 14, 2017

Overcrowded beds, dubious hygiene, the Gorakhpur public hospital in northern India, at the center of a polemic after the death of dozens of children, offers the bleak picture of a deficient and under- funded.

The death last week of 85 children and infants within a few days between the walls of the Baba Raghav Das University Hospital in the poor state of Uttar Pradesh shocked the nation.

The circumstances of the tragedy are unclear: the authorities blame a local epidemic of encephalitis. But the Indian media attribute at least some of these deaths to the shortage of oxygen tanks within the facility, due to unpaid bills.

In panic, some parents had to press a hand pump for long hours to keep their child alive.

“These deaths will not change anything in the short term and this is not a simple oxygen problem. The decay is at an advanced stage and the system must be completely reformed,” AFP told AFP. Covered with anonymity.

A visit to the premises makes it possible to realize the sinister state of the places. The hospital is the largest structure in the region. It comes from a distance.

In the pediatric ward, you have to make your way among the dozens of people waiting on the ground in the corridor, often poor people who do not have the means to go and look after their children in a private institute.

Ⓒ AFP – SANJAY KANOJIA – | Families mourn the death of their children at the Gorakhpur Public Hospital in northern India on August 13, 2017

The decrepit row opens on rows of sick children’s rooms watched over by their families. In the neonatal department, some beds are occupied by three or four newborns at a time due to lack of equipment.

A vague smell of urine still emanates from the walls, despite the vigorous attempts to make it disappear before the visit of the leader of Uttar Pradesh last weekend, come to evaluate the situation.

– Incapacity –

“I can see that hygiene here is very bad and that there is a risk of infections. Whatever the shortcomings, we will work to rectify them,” says PK Singh, the new director of the hospital . His predecessor was sacked at the outbreak of the scandal last week.

Demographic giant in South Asia, India devotes significantly less resources to its public health than the rest of the world. By 2014, the country allocated barely 1.5% of its GDP to this area, compared with an average of 6% elsewhere, according to data from the World Bank.

The hands are cruelly lacking. The district of Gorakhpur, which is home to nearly 4.5 million people, has only five pediatricians and 22 centers for the treatment of encephalitis. And this despite the ravages caused each year in the area by this disease transmitted by mosquito bites.

The highest medical authority in the district, Ravindra Kumar can only acknowledge his helplessness in the face of the phenomenon.

Ⓒ AFP – SAJJAD HUSSAIN – | Protest rally in New Delhi, after dozens of children die at the Gorakhpur Public Hospital in northern India on August 13, 2017

“We are groping, by having no idea of ​​the causes, means of prevention or treatment” of the encephalitis, he declares to the AFP.

127 people have succumbed to acute encephalitis since the beginning of the year in Uttar Pradesh, a state with 220 million inhabitants, according to official statistics as of 6 August.

A poor farmer, Prasad traveled 65 kilometers to bring his daughter Anushka Prasad after the latter developed a high fever.

“We do laps (with his wife) to go down the corridor and the hall to rest while the other stands up here,” he explains, pointing to his daughter lying down.

In the confusion and the crowd, Prasad must take his trouble patiently so the medical staff is sometimes invisible. He is unaware of the disease that affects his daughter.

“She probably has pneumonia. I do not know, the doctors did not tell me.”

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