Updated: April 22, 2021 11:51:57 am
Watching people snatch oxygen cylinders from the bedside of dead patients to try and revive their own family members, and doing the same for his own dying grandmother was a “dehumanising” moment, recalled 23-year-old Vicky Jadhav. His grandmother, 65-year-old Sugandha Thorat, was among at least 24 patients who died after oxygen supply was affected due to a leakage in the main storage tank at Nashik’s Dr Zakir Hussain Hospital on Wednesday.
“Seeing people die in front of your eyes in less than an hour is traumatic. But I can’t get over the sight of watching people clamouring to take away oxygen cylinders from the beds of dead patients and trying to use them to revive their own loved ones. Even I tried to do that but it was of no use,” said Jadhav.
Thorat was in a critical stage with her oxygen saturation at just 38 when Jadhav walked into the hospital at 10 am to meet her. But he realised she was not receiving oxygen and raised an alarm with the staff, he said.
“When I told them that the system was not working they went to check the system and then detected a leak. As soon as that happened there was panic on the third floor where most of the critical patients were kept with the staff bringing out jumbo cylinders to help patients,” said Jadhav.
However, the jumbo cylinders were no substitute for the high-volume air flow of the tank and many critical patients could not survive in the absence of respiratory support.
“It was chaos as doctors and nurses tried to revive patients. Relatives rushed into the ward after hearing something had gone wrong…When we realised that the oxygen had run out, relatives including me, clamoured to get these cylinders from the bedsides of patients who were being given oxygen and had died,” said Jadhav.
Many gathered up their family members from their beds and tried to take them in rickshaws and private vehicles to adjoining hospitals. But a few like Nitin Welukar, whose brother and mother were in the same ward, could not do so.
“My mother was to be discharged tomorrow while my brother Pramod was to be discharged four days later. He was hale and hearty when I walked in this morning with his food. In less than two hours, he died in front of my eyes pleading for help and I could not do anything for him,” said Welukar about his 45-year-old brother.
Meanwhile, the hospital administration said the staff did all that they could to revive the critical patients but sudden loss of high-flow oxygen was fatal for the critically ill.
“We deployed jumbo cylinders as well as dura cylinders available at the hospital. Cylinders from adjoining hospitals were also procured. However, these cylinders could not be substituted for the high-flow oxygen that critical patients require which eventually caused their deaths,” said a nurse who did not want to be named.
The hospital managed to ensure the safety of more than 100 other patients such as Rajesh Kanade, who has been in hospital for five days. His wife Sharda Kanade was with him when “there was panic in the hospital” following the leak. “A nurse came over to my husband’s bed and asked him not to panic. She also gave him oxygen through a cylinder for some time,” she said.
Those who lost their loved ones now blame the administration. “I don’t want to blame the doctors and the nurses, they did all that they could. My anger is against the administration which failed to ensure that the system they set up was safe and functional,” said Jadhav.
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