Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Tuesday welcomed doctors who have volunteered to serve in Kozhikode district, which has been hit by Nipah virus infections.
Vijayan’s statement was in response to a Facebook post by Dr Kafeel Khan, the Uttar Pradesh paediatrician who was arrested after 63 children died at a Gorakhpur hospital in August. He was released on bail in April.
Khan wrote that he was disturbed by the mortality rate of Nipah virus and the rumours spreading on social media. “I request Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan to allow me to serve at Calicut Medical College to save innocent lives,” he wrote.
As many as 10 people have died after being infected by the Nipah virus so far in Kerala. Nipah is a virus that can be transferred from animals to humans. It causes fever and cold-like symptoms in its patients that quickly advances to encephalitis, which is inflammation of the brain, and myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart. There is no vaccine or cure for Nipah infections at present.
Lini Puthussery, a nurse who died on Monday, had also tested positive for the virus. Referring to her, Khan wrote, “Sister Lini is [an] inspiration and I am more than willing to sacrifice my life for the noble cause.”
In response to this, Vijayan wrote on Facebook that the government was happy to provide Khan an opportunity to work in Kerala. “Khan is one among the many selfless medical professionals who work for the society ignoring their lives,” Vijayan wrote. “Many doctors and health workers have offered us to work in the Nipah-affected areas. Those who are keen to serve may kindly contact director of health services or Kozhikode Medical College Superintendent.”
The Chief Minister’s Office added on Facebook: “Even in the face of danger, innumerous doctors continue to toil for the benefit of society, without being mindful of their own well-being.”
Khan was jailed after 63 children died at a hospital in Uttar Pradesh’s Gorakhpur August. The children had suffocated to death after Baba Raghav Das Medical College and Hospital ran out of oxygen. Pushpa Sales, the company contracted to supply liquid oxygen, had cut off the supply after sending repeated reminders to the state-run hospital that its dues of approximately Rs 65 lakh needed to be paid.
In the wake of the tragedy, Khan was initially praised after media reports said that he saved more than 100 children by collecting oxygen cylinders from other nursing homes, paying for them out of his own pocket, when the supply at his hospital was disrupted. He was in charge of the acute encephalitis syndrome ward.
Khan was in prison for eight months, though his family had applied for bail several times. He finally got bail days after his family released a 10-page letter he wrote from jail, in which he claimed he was being made a scapegoat in the case.