NEW DELHI :
Following the death of 154 children from acute encephalitis syndrome (AES), Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar on Monday finally broke his silence, promising to allocate more funds to improve the state’s healthcare system.
Kumar has been criticized for the state’s crippled healthcare infrastructure ever since the encephalitis outbreak in Muzaffarpur district, which alone accounted for 133 deaths.
“Expressing grief is not enough and what has happened is extremely unfortunate. We have convened several meetings and have discussed the issue at length in the past also. When it comes to health infrastructure, we will bring additional budget if needed to improve the health status of the people," Kumar told the Bihar assembly.
“We will upgrade Sri Krishna Medical College and Hospital (SKMCH) to a 1,500-bed facility and later to 2,500, as the condition is really bad there," he added.
The CM said AES cases have declined in Bihar by 21% between 2011 and 2019, and his government was serious in tackling the health crisis. “In 2015, we held a meeting at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Patna, regarding the reasons behind AES. Various experts gave different views. We also sent the report to the US for an expert opinion," Kumar said.
Stating that concerted efforts were needed for improving the health of the people, Kumar pointed out that more girls have been afflicted with AES in comparison to boys, and almost all patients were from very poor families. “It is important for all the families to benefit from the government schemes. We have planned a proper socio-economic survey for all the affected villages to find out the exact cause behind why girls were more affected with the disease," he added. “I appeal to legislators for creating awareness regarding AES to handle the problem. We will link the poor and vulnerable families to self-help groups so that they can be made aware of the government schemes and prevent the spread of the disease. The number of anganwadi centres will also be increased and each house will have a toilet by 2 October."