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20 die in Delhi hospital’s Covid critical care unit, officials say dip in oxygen, move court

Hospital’s medical superintendent says: "A normal patient would have coped; those with high requirements couldn't cope with the deficiency."

Written by Astha Saxena , Jignasa Sinha | New Delhi |
Updated: April 25, 2021 7:40:16 am
Covid-19 social help, social volunteers for Covid help. Oxygen cylinders, Social media information on bed availabilities, Indian expressOxygen cylinders are transported to a hospital in New Delhi on Friday (Express Photo: Prem Nath Pandey)

As healthcare facilities across the national capital battle a severe shortage of oxygen, at least 20 Covid patients in the critical care unit of Jaipur Golden Hospital in northwest Delhi died late Friday night following a dip in oxygen pressure at the facility, officials said.

Following the incident, officials at the private hospital located in Rohini approached the Delhi High Court for help in overcoming what they said was a continuing scarcity in oxygen supply. The hospital, which is a dedicated Covid facility, is currently providing treatment to more than 215 patients.

Speaking to The Sunday Express, Dr D K Baluja, the hospital’s medical superintendent, said: “The Delhi government had written to us saying they will provide 3.6 metric tonnes of oxygen. Though we required more, we agreed to work with this. Last night, the tanker didn’t arrive. We made several calls to authorities and suppliers. Our stocks depleted. After a delay of seven hours, we got 1,000 litres of oxygen. But by then, patients in critical care were affected. This happened after midnight. Some deaths weren’t because of oxygen shortage but other complications too.”

Baluja said the oxygen pressure was “definitely low”. “A normal patient would have coped but not those with high requirements,” he said.

Senior officers said police are looking into the matter. Meanwhile, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal tweeted: “I am writing to all CMs requesting them to provide oxygen to Delhi, if they have spare. Though Central government is also helping us, the severity of corona is such that all available resources are proving inadequate.”

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The incident is the latest in a string of similar setbacks at Covid facilities across the country. On Thursday night, a fire broke out at an ICU ward in a private hospital near Mumbai leading to 15 deaths. Earlier last week, 24 patients were killed in Nashik following a leak in the oxygen storage tank that led to a disruption in supply.

In Delhi, 25 critically ill Covid patients, who were on high-flow oxygen at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, died between Thursday and Friday morning. The hospital, however, did not officially link the deaths to the shortage of oxygen.

At the Rohini hospital, meanwhile, relatives struggled to come to terms with the deaths even as barricades were placed and paramilitary personnel deployed as some family members became agitated.

Outside the mortuary, waiting for his nephew’s body, Kishore (48) said the Central and state governments failed to avert the crisis. He said his nephew, Dinesh Kumar (37), worked for Air India and was admitted to the hospital last week after testing positive.

“Last night, he spoke to his wife around 11 pm. He was well and recovering. We didn’t know they would reduce oxygen levels. He died at 4 am. We have been trying to talk to doctors but nobody is telling us the reason behind his death,” said Kishore, adding that his nephew lived with his mother, wife and two children aged 5 and 3 at Naraina.

On Saturday morning, hospital authorities waited for oxygen to be supplied. Around 12.55 pm, a tanker reached the hospital, and the facility had received around 1,500 litres of oxygen by 6 pm — stocks were replenished at 9.15 pm with 1 metric tonne of oxygen.

“On Friday night, our supply was delayed by seven-eight hours and the stock we received was only 40 per cent of required supply. We stopped taking any new admissions,” Baluja said.

By Saturday afternoon, the hospital informed patients and their attendants about the crisis. “We gave them the option of leaving… even to the extent that we told them to forget everything in terms of billing, insurance approval, etc,” he said.

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