Ballia, UP: “She fainted and never came back to her senses again. The doctors declared her dead.”
Last week, the district hospital in Ballia, Uttar Pradesh reported a surge in deaths for which a probe is underway. Gaon Connection met some families who brought their sick family members to the hospital during extreme heat conditions prevailing in the district, but lost them. The government has denied any link between the deaths and the heatwave.
Brijendra Dubey 23 Jun 2023 8:08 AM GMT
Ballia, Uttar Pradesh
Sunil Singh is a broken man. The 53-year-old resident of Nafrepur village in Ballia, Uttar Pradesh, had promised his wife while marrying her that he would care for his mother-in-law as his own mother. His wife, Usha Singh doesn’t have a brother.
But despite running from pillar to post, he could not save her, and last week on June 16, Singh’s mother-in-law, Jhajho Devi, breathed her last at the district hospital in Ballia, about 270 kms from the state capital Lucknow. The district has been in the news due to a spate of deaths last week when extreme heat conditions were prevailing in north India including Uttar Pradesh.
According to Singh, his mother-in-law had no illness as such. She manifested high fever, vomiting and anxiety for 24 hours before she succumbed to these symptoms.
“On June 15, we first took her to the community health centre in Rasra from where she was referred to the district hospital,” Singh told Gaon Connection.
“The emergency ward of the hospital was like a hot oven. It was overcrowded and I was worried about my mother-in-law’s well-being. The doctors told me that she was hit by loo [hot summer winds in northern India],” he narrated. “The next morning, on June 16, she was declared dead,” Singh added after a brief pause.
Jhajho Devi is amongst 68 people who reportedly lost their lives in a matter of three to four days at the district hospital in Ballia. Families blame the hot weather conditions. “She had no health issues. She only limped a bit because of gathiya [arthritis]. We had never thought that summer heat could take her away from us,” said 35-year-old Seema Singh, daughter of the deceased Jhajho Devi.
The officials, however, maintain that it is inaccurate to attribute the surge in deaths to the heatwave conditions. A probe is already underway to know the exact cause of these deaths.
Although initially, Diwakar Singh, the then chief medical superintendent in the Ballia district had attributed these deaths to the prevailing heat wave conditions, but following his ouster from his post on June 17, the district magistrate soon after mentioned that the deaths were because of a variety of reasons other than the heat wave conditions in the region.
“There are many reports mentioning that people have died due to heat wave conditions in Ballia. There is no concrete evidence to attribute the deaths to the heat wave. The chief medical superintendent has been removed from his post for issuing statements without concrete proof,” Ravindra Kumar, district magistrate, told the press on June 19.
When Gaon Connection met SK Yadav, chief medical superintendent of the district hospital, on June 21, he assured: “The electrical appliances needed to cool down the hospital… AC, fans, desert coolers, are all working now and patients are not facing any hardship inside the hospital due to heat.”
But these assurances mean little to Joginder Nath, a 42-year-old grocery store owner in Tikadevri village of Ballia, who lost his mother the same day, June 16, as Sunil Singh lost his mother-in-law. Nath’s 60-year-old Rajmuni Devi died at the district hospital Ballia, too.
“She was running a fever. I took her to the samoohik swasthya kendra [CHC] in Rasra but they referred her to the district hospital,” Nath told Gaon Connection. “I got her admitted at the hospital but next evening at around 4 PM, she just fainted and never came back to her senses again. The doctors declared her dead and I was numb,” he added.
Nath’s sufferings did not end there. He complained that he had to wait for hours to get an ambulance to bring his mother’s dead body to his house.
“I was told that all the ambulances were busy and had gone to fetch the patients. They asked me to wait for four hours but I couldn’t let my mother lie there like that and hired a private ambulance and got her home,” the father of two children said before bursting into tears.