High-ranking government officials insisted that the hospital’s central oxygen supply system was empty for only two hours, and that the shortage was not a factor in the children’s deaths. Several doctors at the hospital, though, said some of the children probably did die from the shortage.
“Dr. Mishra is under police custody for interrogation, and we are trying to arrest others,” said Satyarth Anirudha Pankaj, police chief of Gorakhpur, during a telephone interview Wednesday evening.
In addition to culpable homicide, Dr. Mishra was charged with cheating, criminal conspiracy and corruption by a government servant.
Dr. Mishra’s wife, Dr. Pornima Shukla, a homeopathy doctor at another government hospital, was accused of acting as a conduit for bribes.
Police said they plan to arrest more people in connection with the oxygen shortage, including hospital account clerks, doctors and executives of the oxygen supply company.
Officials said that the children who died in the month of August perished from a variety of ailments, particularly mosquito-borne Japanese encephalitis, which hits that area hard every year during the rainy season.
Many children arrive at the hospital at death’s door. Doctors said it is not unusual for more than 300 children to die at the hospital in the month of August. Last August it was 364.
The Baba Raghav Das college serves a huge area in India’s biggest state, Uttar Pradesh, where the government health facilities are widely regarded as corrupt and mismanaged.
The hospital provides treatment to more than 20 neighboring districts, some as far as 200 miles distant, said Dr. K. P. Kushwaha, a former administrator, in an interview earlier this month.