Six patients died at a private hospital in Amritsar due to shortage of medical oxygen , even as the State government on Saturday ordered the shutdown of operations in iron and steel industries to divert oxygen for medical use, along with the immediate establishment of Oxygen Control Rooms at the State and district levels amid the escalating oxygen crisis.
Chief Minister Amarinder Singh directed the Deputy Comissioner (Amritsar) to initiate an investigation into the tragic incident at the Amritsar hospital, which prima facie appeared to have flouted orders given to all private hospitals with oxygen shortage to shift their patients to Government Medical Colleges.
The DC has set up a two-member committee comprising PCS (Provincial Civil Service) officer Dr. Rajat Oberoi, Deputy Director, Local Bodies, who is also in-charge of the ‘death analysis committee’, and an Amritsar-based civil surgeon, to probe the matter, said an official statement.
“Six people died at a private hospital, Neelkanth. The investigation so far has revealed that of the six patients, four were suffering from COVID-19 while the other two were non-COVID-19 patients. All the deaths took place between 1.30 p.m. and 3 p.m. (on Friday),” said Gurpreet Singh Khaira, Deputy Commissioner, Amritsar.
Mr. Khaira said the hospital had 30 cylinders in stock, but was operating with only five cylinders. “A major negligence on part of the hospital was that it did not even share with us a serious issue like lack of oxygen. We are providing oxygen to all the hospitals in need of oxygen as per their requirement. In fact, it was made clear to doctors during a meeting of the Indian Medical Association held on April 23 that they should keep in touch with their oxygen suppliers and share the data with us as well,” he said.
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Mr. Khaira added that the district administration had directed civil and police officers to keep an eye on the supply of each cylinder.
Mr. Khaira said, “No doubt there’s a crisis. We have advised private hospitals to admit only as many patients as they can handle on the basis of assured oxygen supply. They should send the rest of the patients to the Guru Nanak Medical College.”
Taking stock of the situation, and the fact that the current oxygen allocation to Punjab was not sufficient to meet urgent requirements, the Chief Minister said he had already taken up the matter with the Centre, and sought an urgent increase in quota. “The sudden influx of patients from neighbouring States has placed an added burden on Punjab’s oxygen requirements,” he said.
Ordering closure of industrial operations at iron and steel plants in the State, the CM said the State government would convey its decision to the Centre. Capt. Singh has also asked for a feasibility report from the State’s Power Department on the use of thermal plants to provide oxygen for medical use.
Punjab has witnessed a sharp increase in the demand for oxygen over the past few days. The State’s demand for oxygen currently stands at 250 MT per day and is further expected to go up to 300 MT in the coming days on account of spiralling COVID-19 cases.
The Chief Minister also directed that contracted oxygen supply to private hospitals may be reviewed to ensure that oxygen is optimally used across the State.