The death toll in the Nashik hospital oxygen leakage incident on Wednesday rose to 24 after two more COVID-19 patients died in the evening.
“Two more patients, who were on ventilator, succumbed in the evening. They could not get sufficient oxygen earlier in the day when its supply stopped due to the leakage in the tank,” collector Suraj Mandhare told PTI.
The Nashik police have filed a case against unknown persons under Section 304 (Culpable homicide not amounting to murder) of the IPC over allegations of gross negligence.
Earlier in the day, 22 COVID-19 patients on ventilator support suffocated to death when their oxygen supply stopped suddenly because of a malfunction in the main storage at the civic-run Dr Zakir Husain Hospital in Nashik city. A total of 150 patients were admitted to the hospital when the incident occurred, a senior civic official said earlier.
Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray has announced a compensation of Rs 5 lakh to each of the deceased’s families.
Among the 24 who lost their lives, 11 were men and 11 were women. About 171 patients were on oxygen in the hospital. Three days before the tragedy, the Union health ministry’s COVID-19 data compiled between March 16 and April 15 from major cities showed Nashik the worst-hit city in the country in terms of cases per million residents.
Explaining the cause behind the deaths, Nashik collector Suraj Mandhre said, “The supply tank that was set up in this hospital started leaking due to cork damage after which the pressure decreased and those on invasive ventilator did not receive adequate oxygen on time. 22 people have died.”
“After nearly an hour, the same tank has been started. It is being used to supply oxygen to the patients now. However, the decrease in pressure, earlier, led to the incident,” he said.
A private company looked after the tank maintenance at the hospital, Mandhare said, adding technicians closed the tank valve preventing more deaths. Of the 150 patients admitted to the hospital, 23 were on ventilator support at the time of the incident while the rest were on oxygen support, a senior civic official said.
The municipal corporation shifted cylinders from other facilities in the city to help the patients at the hospital after the leak, which was noticed around 12.30 pm, an official said. Hospital officials then contacted municipal commissioner Kailash Jadhav seeking technical help to stop the leakage. A 13 kilolitre oxygen tank was set up on the premises of the hospital, located in the Dwarka area of Nashik.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi grief over the incident. “The tragedy at a hospital in Nashik because of oxygen tank leakage is heart-wrenching. Anguished by the loss of lives due to it. Condolences to the bereaved families in this sad hour,” PM Modi said.
Gandhi condoled the death saying, “The news of patients’ death at Nashik’s Zakir Hussain Hospital is extremely tragic. My heartfelt condolences to the aggrieved families. “I appeal to the state government and party workers to provide all possible assistance.”
Meanwhile, minister Rajesh Tope said, “This is an unfortunate incident. I spoke to Nashik municipal commissioner who has informed me that the situation is under control now. I’ll be going to Nashik soon. Nashik Guardian Minister Chhagan Bhujbal has already gone there.”
Tope said the 22 patients died due to a low supply of oxygen caused by the leakage from the storage tank. All of them were on ventilator support, the minister said. The family of each deceased will be given financial assistance of Rs five lakh each from the CM relief fund.
“The liquid oxygen which was filled in the tank has the temperature of around (minus) 180-degree celsius. There is extreme pressure on the walls of the tank which supplies oxygen to patients on ventilator support,” Tope said. Jadhav said no patient is in a serious condition now.
The oxygen level was around 25 per cent in the storage tank at the time of the incident, he said. Two oxygen tanks were set up at the hospital recently and the maintenance work was given to a private company.
An official said the incident occurred when oxygen was being filled in one of the tanks from a tanker, which disturbed the supply to the patients who were on ventilators as well as to those dependent on oxygen for breathing.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari expressed anguish over the tragedy. Police dispersing a crowd of onlookers and the entry at the hospital was restricted after the incident.
Nashik police commissioner Deepak Pandey said people’s emotions are intense, adding arrangements for adequate police deployment have been made. The area has been sealed, he added. A video of oxygen purportedly leaking from the storage plant went viral on social media in the morning.
Relatives of the deceased reached the hospital soon after hearing of the incident and are demanding that stringent action be taken against those responsible for the tragedy.
With PTI inputs