Updated: April 25, 2021 10:00:09 am
Six patients, four of whom were Covid-positive, died due to shortage of oxygen at a private hospital in Amritsar on Saturday.
Ram Piyari (80), Didar Singh (86) and Kulwant Singh from Amritsar, Kawaljit Kaur and Gurpreet Singh from Gurdaspur, and Sukhdev Singh from Tarn Taran died gasping for oxygen at Neelkanth Hospital on the intervening night of April 23 and 24.
Hospital authorities blamed the district administration for the deaths, claiming that their pleas for oxygen fell on deaf ears.
Following the tragedy, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh ordered a probe into the circumstances leading to the deaths at the hospital, which prima facie seemed to have flouted orders given to all private hospitals with oxygen shortage to shift their patients to the Government Medical College.
The CM also ordered shutdown of the state’s iron and steel industries to divert oxygen for medical use, besides calling for setting up oxygen control rooms at the state and district levels.
Following the CM’s orders, the Amritsar DC has set up a 2-member committee, comprising a PCS officer, Dr Rajat Oberoi (Deputy Director Local Bodies), who is also incharge of the death analysis committee, and Civil Surgeon, Amritsar, to probe the matter.
The hospital management has alleged that district administration got all oxygen plants in Amritsar to supply oxygen to the Government Medical College.
Civil Surgeon Charanjit Singh, when contacted, said, “We are checking the hospital’s records. They told us that four patients were Covid positive, while two were on oxygen support for other ailments.”
On the hospital’s allegations, he said, “We are receiving demand for oxygen from private hospitals every day, and it is forwarded to the state. The oxygen shortage started from last two to three days. But we are managing it”
But hospital officials claimed that the district administration failed to respond to their desperate calls for oxygen cylinders for 48 hours.
Relatives of the deceased patients alleged that they were told to sign papers absolving the hospital of responsibility if their patient died due to shortage of oxygen. Narinder Kumar, a relative of Ram Piyari, said, “We were informed about the death of our patient around 1am. Earlier, they had told us that she was recovering. They had claimed to have sufficient oxygen at the time of admission. Many hospitals turned us away as they said they didn’t have oxygen. But here we were told that there was no shortage of oxygen.”
Amritpal Singh Bajwa, Congress sarpanch of Nangal village in Gurdaspur, who lost his cousin, said, “Patients were folding their hands before doctors and nurses to save them. We paid Rs 45,000 per day for treatment. Instead of giving us the dead body, they were asking us to clear the dues.”
Neelkanth Hospital MD Sunil Devgan said: “Our minimum requirement was of 50 cylinders, but we couldn’t arrange it. We told the attendants of patients to take them to other hospitals as we were facing difficulty in getting oxygen.”
Devgan claimed, “The crisis built up during the last 48 hours. I approached every possible source in government and private sector. I didn’t sleep during the last two days, but couldn’t manage oxygen. Police has been deployed outside oxygen vendors and no private hospital is allowed to lift any cylinders. I had also sent men to Jammu for cylinders but to no avail.”
Two days before this tragedy, Medical Education Minister and Amritsar Central MLA OP Soni, had claimed that there was no shortage of oxygen in the district. But after these six deaths, Soni said, “Oxygen supply situation is like next to death in Amritsar.”
Soni, however, squarely blamed the private hospital for the six deaths. “This has happened due to negligence of hospital administration… We have set up an inquiry committee to probe the issue.”
However, during the press conference on Saturday, Soni admitted that he also received desperate call for oxygen from another private hospital, Medicity.
“They (Medicity) told me they had just one hour if oxygen left with 19 patients admitted. They were immediately provided 20 oxygen cylinders… There is no discrimination with private hospitals. It is our responsibility to arrange oxygen,” said Soni.
Shortage in other hospitals too
Neelkanth was not the only hospital facing an oxygen emergency. Guru Nanak Dev Hospital, Medicity and some other private hospitals were also facing an oxygen shortage on the night of April 23. Minister of Medical Education in Punjab, O P Soni, admitted, “Last night, there was oxygen emergency at Guru Nanak Dev Hospital and Medicity. I was awake till 1 am arranging for oxygen…” Deputy Commissioner Gurpreet Singh Khira also admitted to the oxygen emergency. “There was a crisis last night,” Khira said. (Express News Service)
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