Andhra Pradesh

Oxygen shortage | Ruia tragedy attributed to stress on medical infrastructure

Member of Parliament M. Gurumoorthy, MLA Bhumana Karunakar Reddy and mayor R. Sireesha inspecting restoration of oxygen supply at SVRR Government General Hospital in Tirupati on Tuesday.   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The unfortunate incident in which eleven patients lost their lives due to disruption in oxygen supply at Sri Venkateswara Ramnarain Ruia hospital on Monday night is primarily attributed to the heavy stress on medical infrastructure. The sudden rush of patients requiring oxygen, especially over the last four days, had a cumulative effect.

The brief disruption in the flow of oxygen from the tanker was said to have caused the incident. Though another tanker from a plant in Sriperumbudur (Tamil Nadu) was scheduled to arrive at 5 p.m., it reached by 8.30 p.m.. As the pressure from the ‘near empty’ tanker had come down by then, the authorities rushed in to provide oxygen from bulk cylinders. The delay of five minutes involved for the replacement, though unofficially pegged at 25 minutes by the relatives of the victims, wreaked havoc and caused the disaster.

Ruia hospital has 1028 beds, of which 876 are marked for COVID-19 patients and the remaining for non-COVID cases. However, as the inflow remained unabated in the last four days, the authorities tried to accommodate as many cases as possible even on the non-COVID beds. According to Ruia Superintendent K. Bharathi, 962 patients were undergoing treatment as on Tuesday morning, with 250 of them tagged as ‘serious cases’. There are many more in the triaging and testing areas.

The deceased involved in the mishap were among the 135 being treated with ventilator support at the ICU. “Around forty suffered brief breathlessness due to low pressure from the bulk cylinder when it was being replaced, out of which, eleven died”, explained the hospital’s nodal officer Hari Krishna. He said one more tanker would be installed in a week’s time.

Lack of manpower

Though the government has ensured additional supply of oxygen in tune with the rising demand and donors are also chipping in with munificent supply of tankers, lack of trained manpower to operate the tankers remains a grey area.

Sources in the know of things revealed to The Hindu that only one unskilled, lowly-paid person had been engaged to operate the five to six oxygen tankers installed at Ruia as well as in the contiguous Government Maternity Hospital compounds. The person was also not provided any professional training on handling an oxygen tankers, it is learnt. The Hospital Development Society (HDS) is learnt to have not taken any path-breaking decisions in the recent times towards improving the medical infrastructure.

Meanwhile, Member of Parliament M. Gurumoorthy, MLA Bhumana Karunakar Reddy and mayor R. Sireesha visited the hospital on Tuesday and inspected the measures taken to restore normalcy.

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Printable version | Jun 13, 2021 10:26:08 PM |

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