Lucknow: A rising number of cases of Encephalitis coupled with a lack of resources and infrastructure has turned the situation grim in Bihar, particularly in Muzaffarpur, which has been the worst affected by the disease. Over 100 children have succumbed to the Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) so far. Amid the crisis, a team of doctors from Gorakhpur has been trying to rekindle hope among them.
The team, led by Dr Kafeel Khan and comprising Dr Arshad Anjum, Dr N Azam, Dr Ashish Gupta, Dr Dharmadev Yadav and others, has examined more than 700 children at free medical camps in Muzaffarpur over the last three days. Khan had hit the headlines in 2017 when he was posted in the pediatric ward of Gorakhpur’s BRD Hospital where scores of children, suffering from Japanese Encephalitis, had allegedly died due to disruption in oxygen supply over unpaid bills to the hospital's supplier. Khan had reportedly paid from his own pocket to buy oxygen cylinders to save lives. However, he was later sentenced to seven months in jail and charged under several sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) relating to criminal conspiracy and culpable homicide.
After spending more than seven months in jail, he was granted bail by the Allahabad high court in April last year.
"This was our third day in Muzaffarpur and we have been holding free health camps and also educating people about the deadly disease. I came here with two other doctors and we have been joined by three more doctors from Bihar. Our team, with help from social organisations, has been screening children and have referred those who tested positive for the symptoms,” Khan said over phone.
“Shortage of doctors, lack of infrastructure, and other facilities is killing more children than the disease. The number of doctors and nursing staff at the SKMCH hospital isn’t enough. Also, there aren’t enough beds to accommodate patients. The norms to be followed inside the ICU have also been thrown to the wind,” Khan said, adding that the number of casualties might have crossed the 300-mark as official deaths are counted only when they occur in government hospitals.
“There is no data about the deaths of children due to encephalitis at private hospitals. Many children even reportedly died while they were being taken to hospitals,” he said.
Khan was arrested again by the Bahraich police in September last year after he had examined children admitted to the district hospital after 70 deaths in 45 days due to a mysterious fever.
Khan said he has learnt from his past mistakes and is now doing everything as per the law.
“I have learnt from my past mistakes. I have been jailed for nothing, so this time I took proper permission from the administration before holding health camps. We took permission for three days, which ended today. Now we are hopeful that the administration will permit us further in order to fight this health menace. I will be camping in Muzaffapur for some more time to provide assistance,” he said.
Khan had blamed the government for the deaths of children at the BRD Medical College in August 2017. He had alleged that he and his family were targeted for no reason. “The government is responsible for turning my life and my family’s life into a complete nightmare. It is nothing but government-sponsored victimisation. Whatever happened on the night of August 10, 2017, was a massacre and it was the fault of those who were reminded repeatedly for six months to clear the balance of the company which provided us with oxygen cylinders.”