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Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Jharkhand district battles second wave: ‘Could my son have been saved if we got oxygen on time?’

The state has been severely hit by the second wave, recording 3,853 fatalities so far, besides having 58,806 active cases at present.

Written by Abhishek Angad | Dhanbad |
Updated: May 11, 2021 7:43:28 am
In Dhanbad, the number of deaths have more than doubled over a month. (Express Photo)

SITTING CROSS-LEGGED on a mat at his home in Tetulmari area of Dhanbad, Dasarath Chauhan (70) wondered if he lost his 36-year-old son to shortage of oxygen, just days after losing his wife to a suspected Covid infection.

Chauhan’s son Dharmendra died on May 4 at Shaheed Nirmal Mahato Medical College and Hospital (SNMMCH), the district’s biggest government facility. “A few days after we returned from my wife’s last rites in Bihar’s Aurangabad district, my son fell ill. I assume he contracted the virus there. But on May 4, his condition deteriorated and we went to SNMMCH, but we were asked to get an oxygen cylinder as there was no oxygen bed available. We rushed to get one. Meanwhile, SNMMCH also got one but the process took around 1.5 hours and before he could be helped, my son struggled for oxygen and died,” said Chauhan. “Could he have been saved if we got the oxygen cylinder on time,” he asked.

However, SNMMCH Superintendent Arun Kumar Choudhary said he could not recall if there was any fatality on May 4. “There is no shortage of oxygen, but yes there could have been a shortage of beds. But now even more arrangements have been made.”

Jharkhand boasts of sending liquid medical oxygen to other states with Health Minister Banna Gupta saying on April 27 that the state is sending 200 MT of liquid oxygen to other states.

The state has been severely hit by the second wave, recording 3,853 fatalities so far, besides having 58,806 active cases at present.

In Dhanbad, the number of deaths have more than doubled over a month. On April 10, it reported 385 active cases and 124 deaths, and a month later, this figure rose to 1,579 active cases with 308 fatalities. The district has 616 oxygen-supported beds and 67 ventilator beds in government and private facilities — of which 182 beds and four ventilator beds were available according to the last updated data on the state government’s ‘Amrit Vahini’ application.

The district administration has also launched a helpline for bed management and other Covid-related resources but many are inadvertently outside its purview.

Gudiya, a resident of Aekra Colony whose mother-in-law Radha died on May 4 after a frantic search for hospitals, said, “We looked for many private hospitals. All gave some treatment for some time and then asked to take her into emergency, but to no avail. We could not save her.” She said she had “no idea” about the helpline.

And then there are those who contact the helpline but allegedly fail to get help.

Outside Sadar Hospital, Dhanbad, Arvind Kumar Mandal was in shock about his brother’s death Monday morning, despite travelling 80 km from Giridih’s Dumri block to the hospital for treatment. However, the more pressing concern was getting the body transported to their native village.

“Since the last four hours we have been coordinating with the hospital staff and they said it is our responsibility to get the body,” he said, adding that he called the helpline but the operators were allegedly of no help. “We got hold of a private ambulance. We paid him Rs 10,000 for a journey to our hometown. We had to maintain some dignity of the dead, even if the government doesn’t.”

Calls to the Dhanbad Seputy Commissioner and ADM (law and order) did not elicit a response.

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