Diphtheria deaths issue rocks NDMC House, opposition seeks resignation of mayor

AAP's Vikas Goel alleged that NDMC's health committee were "inactive" and only woke up when deaths were reported in media.

Diphtheria deaths issue rocks NDMC House, opposition seeks resignation of mayor
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NEW DELHI: The BJP-led NDMC House saw a huge uproar on Wednesday as opposition members cornered the ruling party over the issue of deaths of 30 children in September at a civic hospital in north Delhi and sought the resignation of the mayor and action against the guilty.

Both AAP and Congress members sought discussion over the issue from Mayor Adesh Gupta even as they blamed some members of the North Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) of "making a mockery" of the tragic deaths by attributing it to fate.

The argument from both sides soon turned into heated exchanges and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) members, some holding placards, raised slogans and later trooped to the well of the House, chanting "mayor must resign".

The leader of Opposition and AAP's Wazirpur councillor Vikas Goel and senior Congress leader Mukesh Goel led the attack against the mayor and alleged that health services had "deteriorated" in the 
NDMC hospitals, accusing the corporation of being "ill-equipped and ill-staffed" to handle such a situation.

Five more deaths due to diphtheria have been reported at NDMC-run Maharishi Valmiki Infectious Diseases Hospital at Kingsway Camp, taking the toll from the infectious disease in the city to 31 since September, officials said Wednesday.

"The mayor says that most of these victims belonged to western Uttar Pradesh, so does that mean, the corporation has no responsibility in treating out-station patients. And if people are coming from Uttar Pradesh to Delhi, does it not show failure on part of the Yogi government," Mukesh Goel alleged.

Interacting with reporters after the House proceedings, the Congress leader said the NDMC cannot wash its hands off of it, by just suspending the medical superintendent of the hospital, they must answer to the people and take action against all who are guilty.

AAP's Vikas Goel alleged that NDMC's health committee were "inactive" and only woke up when deaths were reported in media.

"Also, the MS has been made a scapegoat to protect senior officials at higher echelons. The mayor should take moral responsibility and resign from his post, and action should be taken against all those who are guilty," he said.

Gupta last week had suspended medical superintendent of the Maharishi Valmiki Infectious Diseases Hospital for alleged lapses in connection with the deaths of these children at the facility.

The hospital, the largest such facility in Asia, is under the BJP-led North Delhi Municipal Corporation.

Gupta had set up a panel a few days ago to look into the death cases and sought a report.

The five-member panel has presented its report to the mayor which was tabled in the House on Wednesday.

The committee found that from December 2 last year to September 9 this year, there was "not a single dose" of anti-diphtheria serum (ADS) in the hospital.

"Most of the children were non-vaccinated against diphtheria and were from rural areas of Uttar Pradesh and presented late to hospital and as a result developed complications leading to death," it said.

Congress' Goel said that the NDMC in its reply in the House Wednesday said there were "five ventilators" in the combined premises of Rajen Babu Tuberculosis Hospital and Maharishi Valmiki Infectious Diseases Hospital at Kingsway Camp, but in a recent House meet, it had said that there was just "one ventilator".

"Why such a discrepancy? Are the deaths of children a joke," he asked. 

According to information shared by the NDMC during its House proceedings on Wednesday, a total of 61 deaths have taken place due to diphtheria this year.

The rest of the 30 deaths had taken place this year from January till September, a senior official said.

Half of the total fatalities this year have taken place in September, which is the highest for this month since 2015. The number of patients admitted in September this year stands at 223, also the highest since 2015.

The fatalities reported in previous years for September are -- 22 (in 2015), 26 (2016) and 20 (2017). 

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