The company which supplied oxygen to the Baba Raghav Das Medical College in Gorakhpur said it had on August 9 written a letter to the Uttar Pradesh medical education minister Ashutosh Tandon, informing him that it had sent nine reminders to the college about more than Rs 60 lakh in pending dues. The letter from Pushpa Sales director Manish Bhandari said that despite nine reminders and even a legal notice sent between April 17 and August 8, the college had not responded.
This letter is likely to be part of the investigation by a special team announced by UP Chief Minister Adityanath on Sunday, after 30 children died in a 48-hour period at the medical college’s hospital. Adityanath has claimed that the deaths were due to encephalitis, although other reports have blamed a shortage in oxygen after Pushpa Sales cut off its supply on August 10 due to non-payment of dues. The supply was restored on August 13, only after some payments were made to the company.
The letter from Bhandari informed the minister that the 24-hour central oxygen pipeline was essential for the treatment of critically ill patients in the hospital. Pushpa Sales said it had written the letter to ensure that in future there is no impediment in supplying oxygen.
“I would like to bring to your attention that for the last six months the BRD Medical College, Gorakhpur has, as of 8 August, 2017, yet to pay Rs 68,65,702 of dues and that despite several letters, meetings, calls, mails and a legal notice sent to the principal of the BRD Medical College, Gorakhpur, we have not got any response,” Bhandari wrote.
The letter written to the minister lists out the dates of the nine reminders written to the college between April 17 and August 8.
The company’s sales manager in Gorakhpur, Deepankar Sharma, told the Indian Express that the agreement with the college mentioned that payments must be made within 15 days and arrears should never exceed Rs 10 lakh. On August 11, after the deaths were reported, the company says it was paid about Rs 20 lakh of the amount, but pending dues are still more than Rs 40 lakh.
On his part, Rajeev Mishra, the former head of BRD Medical college claimed that he had written several letters to top officials of the Uttar Pradesh government requesting the release of funds to the college, so that it could pay Pushpa Sales. He claimed that the state government did not take prompt action in the matter.
“I wrote at least three letters to the health department on July 3, 19 and August 1,” Mishra said. “I had attached reminders from the Lucknow-based vendor in my letters. I had even raised the issue in discussions over video-conferencing with officials in Lucknow.”
The former head of BRD Medical College said the government finally sanctioned the funds on August 5 and payment was made on August 11. He claimed the payment was delayed further as a result of Chief Minister Adityanath’s visit to the hospital. Mishra said that he resigned on August 12, after taking responsibility for the deaths of the children, although the government claimed he had been suspended.