COVID-19 in Madhya Pradesh: ICU patients choke to death due to low pressure of oxygen

Bhopal: Conflicting claims have added to the din over deaths of 22 patients in the last 24 hours at Shahdol Medical College. While there is no denying that the deceased were in a critical condition, admitted in ICU and weighed down by comorbidities, a section of the officialdom believes the low pressure of oxygen possibly precipitated matters, leading to the fatalities.

A team led by divisional commissioner Rajiv Verma had visited the medical college on Saturday evening to take stock of arrangements. He said the liquid oxygen supply at the hospital had started thinning out by then.

"Suppliers were contacted, but the vehicle could not reach till late night," he explained, owing to which ‘‘the pressure at which oxygen was supplied to the patients was reduced," he said adding that there is a pressure on suppliers across India for making available medical oxygen.

Incidentally, the oxygen plant on the campus has a storage capacity of just 10 kilolitres per day, and the critical gas must be transported from other states to meet any mismatch in demand and supply.

Yet another account is that of the facility's dean Dr Milind Shiralkar. "Out of the 62 patients admitted in the ICU ward of the Covid centre, six patients died due to low pressure of liquid oxygen late Saturday night," the facility's dean, Dr Milind Shiralkar, said.

Shahdol Collector Satyendra Singh, however, said, “The Covid patients died as they were critical. Oxygen pressure was low, but we had a back-up of jumbo oxygen cylinders, so there was no shortage per se. The deaths were due to their critical condition and not because of shortage of oxygen. We immediately managed to procure from the district hospital jumbo oxygen cylinders. Another consignment was on way from Damoh. So, as such, there was no shortage of oxygen.”

Medical education minister Vishwas Sarang also denied that there was any shortage. "I spoke to the Dean. They were in a critical situation, had it been due to oxygen shortage, other patients on ventilators would have also suffered," Sarang said, adding that they will investigate the matter.

Taking a swipe, former chief minister and Congress state president Kamal Nath asked the state government how long the desperate situation will persist.

In a tweet, Nath said, "Very sad news of deaths due to lack of oxygen has come from Shahdol? Why didn’t the government wake up after the deaths in Bhopal, Indore, Ujjain, Sagar, Jabalpur, Khandwa and Khargone due to shortage of oxygen?

Terming the situation as scary, Nath also said there was also a shortage of Remdesivir injections.

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