VIP-itis: Bihar Health Minister Got Exclusive Ambulance, Doctor As Kids Died Of Encephalitis

Betwa Sharma

MUZAFFARPUR, Bihar — As the death toll of children suffering from Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) in Bihar shows no sign of abating, Muzaffarpur’s overworked doctors and nurses are struggling with another malaise — VIP visitors, whose presence demands a full-kitted out ambulance accompany their entourage at all times — even when convoy protocol does not allow for it.

Over the past week, Bihar’s health minister Mangal Pandey and the Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan — both from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) — have both visited Shree Krishna Medical College and Hospital (SKMCH), which has witnessed at least 83 of the 103 recorded fatalities.

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When Pandey visited Muzaffarpur on 14 June, HuffPost India learnt that an ambulance managed by a doctor, a nurse, a blood bank technician, an emergency medical technician and a driver, was sent to accompany his convoy.

The ambulance met Pandey’s convoy at Fakuli, which is near the Muzaffarpur-Patna border, and stayed with him almost four hours, which included his visit to the SKMCH hospital.

At the hospital, an ambulance with a patient was stopped to make way for Pandey’s convoy.

Prior to Harsh Vardhan’s visit to Muzaffarpur on Sunday, an order for an ambulance was issued, but it was canceled as the AES situation had spiralled out of control and every ambulance was needed to ferry sick children.

The order for the ambulance is passed down from the District Magistrate to the Civil Surgeon to the District Programme Manager, who is in charge of the District Health Society.

This convoy protocol is extended to the President, the Prime Minister, the Chief Minister and the Governor of the state, Alok Ranjan Ghosh, the District Magistrate of the Muzaffarpur, told HuffPost India.

It is unclear why the protocol was extended to the state and union health ministers at a time when doctors and ambulances are in...

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