The acute encephalitis syndrome (AES) outbreak in Bihar has so far claimed the lives of over 130 children. Enraged kin of patients admitted to the Sri Krishna Medical College (SKMC) and Hospital in Muzaffarpur, on Tuesday, were unanimous in alleging that it had failed to provide even basic facilities even as the death toll has risen, with 89 children dying at that hospital alone.
Most of the issues quoted by the eyewitnesses in the hospital were lack of proper care at the hospitals, scarcity of water, cleanliness and many other reasons which have only exacerbated the issue. Talking to Republic TV, one of the protesters present at the hospital narrated how the lack of facilities has fuelled the situation:
"There's severe water crisis here at the hospital. The doctors neglect their duties here and focus only on their private clinics. We demand resignation of Nitish Kumar. He must give an apology too."
Citing that the doctors who are present are still studying and are not experienced enough to handle patients, one protester said that nurses are not present in the hospital wards to cater to the needs of the admitted patients:
"Apart from the dire conditions of the hospital, there is an acute shortage of water. Even the doctors are neglecting their duties. The ones who practise here do so without the supervision of senior doctors. The administration is so careless, there aren't any nurses in the ward." he added.
Another protester raised the issue of unavailability of prescribed medicines:
"The doctors recommend ten medicines, but only two of those are provided by the hospital. They tell us to buy the rest from outside. How will a poor buy these medicines." he said
In addition, the medicines which are provided by the hospital are also not good enough for patients, he later added:
"The hospital ward is shared by around four sick people."
The protesting at the hospital, many of whom were clearly kin of those admitted there, demanded a swift action that should be taken by the government officials. They also stated that the people deserve an apology from the chief minister who had finally visited the hospital on Tuesday.
"Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, cabinet ministers and other officials have visited the hospital. But its of no use since the number of deaths has only gone up. There are no medical facilities even as more children are dying," a protester said.
One also alleged that the common people of Bihar were being exploited by the higher authority, civil servants:
"These officials and the hospital administration should be taken to task. They constantly abuse us and threaten us. All of this should be accounted for. There needs to be a detailed investigation on these people."
As Nitish Kumar had visited the SKMCH hospital, protests had broken out over his silence on the incident.
A protestor outside the SKMCH hospital said: "CM cannot just sit in his car and walk away, he has to reply. We are protesting against the inefficiency of the government. Nitish Kumar must answer, he cannot come in an AC car and go."
With the death toll in Bihar increasing with each passing day, the administration under Nitish Kumar has been giving excuses and blaming the cause on excessive heat and humidity, hypoglycemia, and even eating litchis on an empty stomach. However, despite the disease affecting the state every year, the questions as to why the state or Centre failed to combat this illness remains unanswered.
Meanwhile, a case has been filed by social activist Tamanna Hashmi against Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan and Bihar Health Minister Mangal Pandey in a court in Muzaffarpur district on charges of negligence in the matter.