Thirteen critical patients at the Chengalpattu Government Hosptial died minutes after each other on Tuesday night after an alleged disruption in oxygen supply. While district authorities and the hospital maintains that that the patients died due to other co-morbidities and health issues, post graduate doctors who were treating them allege negligence on the part of the hospital.
Post-graduate doctors at the Chengalpattu government hospital near Chennai have been protesting since Wednesday morning against the alleged negligence exhibited by the administrators of the institute. Speaking to TNM, doctors who are protesting, said on the condition of anonymity, that they had warned the hospital on Tuesday morning that there was depletion in oxygen supply but the dean and other senior doctors failed to address the matter till the night, when matters went out of hand.
The patients died on Tuesday night even as oxygen was rushed in from SRM hospital and Karpaga Vinayaga medical college. While doctors who were treating them claim that they were a mix of COVID-19 patients and those suspected to have the disease, the district authorities maintain that only one of the deceased patients was positive for the virus.
According to protesting doctors, the hospital could not meet the oxygen demand as almost all oxygen beds in the wards treating COVID-19 and those suspected to have COVID-19 were occupied. The hospital that usually requires 2.3 kilolitre of oxygen per day, needed 4.5 kilolitre on Tuesday, an issue that district and hospital authorities ignored till the last minute
The Chengalpattu Collector John Loius who was present while oxygen was being rushed in, however, claimed that all possible efforts were taken and denied that the deaths were due to shortage in oxygen.
"I got a call last night that there were issues. I went at 11 pm to the Chengalpattu hospital. 23 kilolitre is our capacity for oxygen there and we had 10 Kilolitre and two external 3 kilolitre oxygen set-ups," he said. "We also had cylinders that were refilled and when the pressure dropped we continued this. There is no question of oxygen shortage," he added.
The Collector further said that those who required oxygen at high pressures survived and that the patients who died were already critical with other comorbidities and issues.
"Those who were on C-Pap (continuous positive airway pressure - a form of non-invasive ventilation) and HFNC (High Flow Nasal Cannula) survived," he argued.
Protesting doctors however are unconvinced by this explanation.
"Some of the patients who died were also on high flow oxygen unlike what the Collector is claiming. We were warning them from the morning to ensure we had undisrupted oxygen supply," says a doctor. "Even if the deceased patients had other co-morbidities, isn't it the duty of the hospital to make sure that necessary resources are available for the patients?" he asks.
Protesting doctors have submitted a memorandum to the hospital dean demanding that necessary resources are allocated in advance. While they admit that only an autopsy can prove that, they point out that the blame for the deaths will fall on the treating doctors.
"We are at the frontline of this and the caretakers are accusing us," says a doctor. "The hospital is not taking accountability for oxygen disruption."