Eleven Covid patients who were in the ICU died at a government hospital in Andhra Pradesh’s Tirupati on Monday evening after the supply of medical oxygen was disrupted. The deaths have been reported at a time when India is fighting a deadly second Covid wave and shortage of medical oxygen has emerged as a key challenge.
Disturbing visuals captured the chaos inside the wards at SVR Ruia Hospital as medical staff tried to save lives.
Even as families of patients alleged that the oxygen supply was disrupted for about 25-45 minutes, Chittoor District Collector M Hari Narayanan said “there was a five-minute lag in reloading the oxygen cylinder that caused the pressure to drop,” which led to the deaths.
“The oxygen supply was restored within five minutes and everything is now normal. We have connected bulk cylinders and there is no reason to worry. A major disaster was averted because of quick action by medical staff,” he said.
The delay in arrival of oxygen tanker from Sriperumbudur in Tamil Nadu had triggered the crisis, he further said. The hospital has a capacity of over 1,100 beds; there are over 100 patients in the ICU, and 400 on oxygen beds. About 30 doctors were immediately rushed into the ICU to attend to the patients.
Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy has condoled the deaths and ordered a probe into the incident.
On Sunday, in neighbouring Telangana, a two-hour disruption in oxygen supply reportedly led to the death of at least three patients at a government hospital in Hyderabad, although the authorities deny it.
NDTV visited King Koti Hospital and met primary attendants of patients who confirmed that for nearly two hours, there was a dip in oxygen supply.
20-year-old Rohit was in fact taking a spare oxygen cylinder for a refill. His 38-year-old brother Krishna Chaitanya is in the ICU at the hospital.
“My brother’s oxygen pulse rating fell to 60. We panicked, so did some 200 others at the hospital. Luckily we had our own oxygen cylinder in the car. Till we fetched it, attendant of a 70-year-old patient on the next bed gave him (his brother) oxygen from a spare second cylinder that they had,” Rohit told NDTV.
In the last few weeks several disturbing stories on hospitals in India scrambling to get medical oxygen have made global headlines amid the battle against the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Last week, a 12-member National Task Force has been set up by the Supreme Court to assess availability and distribution of medical oxygen – on scientific, rational and equitable basis – across the country.
India has logged over 2.66 crore coronavirus cases since the pandemic broke; about 3.66 lakh cases were reported yesterday.