Interview: No Litchi Factor With (acute encephalitis syndrome) AES Disease in Muzaffarpur: Dr. Kafeel Khan

Two years back in Gorakhpur when AES epidemic was claiming lives of kids, Dr Kafeel was an Assistant Professor of BRD, Gorakhpur Hospital. He was in the limelight for his extraordinary efforts to save the innocent lives. Social media and local media made him a hero overnight which did not suit vested interests of some in power and he had to suffer a lot. He was suspended. His family was traumatised. In spite of all challenges he faced bravely and Allahabad Court gave him a clean chit, his suspension has yet not been revoked by Uttar Pradesh government led by Yogi Adityanath.

Dr Kafeel is still under suspension and cases against him are going on in lower court, but all that did not deter him. He is organising free medical camps for the underprivileged kids. He is also travelling to seek justice for those who had died in the BRD Oxygen tragedy.

Dr. Kafeel recently visited Muzaffarpur of Bihar when AES broke out and claimed at least 130 lives of kids. He is on a mission “Health to All” and wants ‘Equal Healthcare to All’ a fundamental right. He is supported by 25 renowned health experts from all over India.

Dr. Kafeel had secured 30th rank in Medical Entrance test. He did his MBBS and MD (Pediatrics) from KMC, Manipal, Karnataka. Before joining as a lecturer in BRD, Gorakhpur in 2016 he was an Assistant Professor in SIIMS, Gangtok (Sikkim).

Sameer of The Morning Chronicle talked with Dr. Kafeel Khan on his trauma post Gorakhpur Oxygen tragedy, effectiveness of Ayushman Bharat Scheme, AES in Muzaffarpur and his mission “Health to All”. Here are excerpts:

Sameer: You visited Muzaffapur and saw conditions over there. Is this the same disease kids succumbed to in your hospital in Gorakhpur?

Dr. Kafeel: Yes. I screened so many kids there. Talked and educated the parents. I also visited patients over there. I found there was the same case what happened in BRD, Gorakhpur. Both are the same kind of disease.

Sameer: Why are media and government relating this disease with Litchi?

Dr. Kafeel: I have talked to parents of at least 60 patients. All of them told me that they had not given their kids litchi to eat before they suffered this disease. Litchi connection is a rumour. Litchi may be a factor in some cases. But Litchi is not the cause alone and in so many cases Litchi is no where related. This disease especially spreads in very hot climate. When rain pours it comes down.

Sameer: I have been reported that many people were Ayudhman Bharat scheme holders and in spite of that they were not admitted to local private nursing homes. Do you find Ayushman Bharat effective?

Dr. Kafeel: Ayushman Bharat scheme is a flop show. Mr. Prime Minister when announced this scheme two years back had told that 5 crores people would be given 5 lacs for health treatment under this scheme which means this scheme needed 2.5 lakhs crores of rupees. However Mr. Prime Minister had alloted how much? Only six thousand crores. There is a huge gap between the promised and the fund allotted for this. Similary, Mr. Arun Jaitley had announced that his government would open 1.5 lac wellness centres. One wellness centre would cost 4 to 5 crores. Means cost to open this number of wellness centres would come around 6 lacs crores but how much fund was there? Four thousand crores. You can guess how this will be implemented when the government has no money to allot to spend on its flagship schemes.

Sameer: Post BDR Oxygen tragedy, you suffered a lot. You were suspended and traumatised. Was Indian Medical Association by your side when you were under attacks?

Dr. Kafeel: Post BDR Oxygen tragedy was tough time for me. I was made a scapegoat in order to hide failures of the state and imprisoned for nine months. However, honourable Allahabad High Court categorically stated that I was no way responsible for the tragedy and I was actually helping those kids going out of way.

Sameer: Was IMA your side when you were traumatised?

Dr. Kafeel: No. In fact, after so many times, writing a letter to so many people, I got a reply from Kolkata Medical College this year in June in my support.

Sameer: Was it hypocrisy on the part of IMA which recently called a nation wide strike in support of Kolkata doctors who were thrashed by an angry mob after death of a patient but played a mute spectator in your case?

Dr.Kafeel: No. It is not hypocrisy. You can say it their ignorance.

Sameer: I have heard about your project “Health to All.” What is this about?

Dr. Kafeel: ‘Health to All’ is a project under our NGO – Dr Kafeel Khan Mission Smile Foundation. It is supported by 25 renowned health experts from all over India.   We aim at improving overall picture of healthcare system in India. According to the Supreme Court, healthcare is a fundamental right under article 21 of the Constitution. However, we are still deprived of this right.  Due to differential distributions of services, power and resources there are inequalities in healthcare access. Access and entry into hospitals depends on gender, socioeconomic status, education, wealth, caste and location of residence here. If you are upper caste, you are powerful, you are educated and wealthy you are accessible to everywhere. Otherwise, you are nowhere.

We are trying to create awareness among people, meet with politicians to ensure a policy that offers everyone the same quality of healthcare without any discrimination.

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