An owner of a hospital in India’s Agra city was caught on camera bragging about turning the facilty’s oxygen supply off, after which almost two dozen patients were left gasping for breath and “turning blue”, in what he said was called a “mock drill”.
The incident took place on 27 April when India was going through a severe oxygen crisis due to an extreme surge in related Covid admissions.
The owner of Paras Hospital was heard saying in a video that his hospital had run out of oxygen and they were unable to arrange for more.
He claimed they had “identified” 22 patients that they thought “they would die” and interrupted their oxygen supply for five minutes claiming it was a mock drill.
The video clip was reportedly recorded the next day.
“We were told that even the Chief Minister cannot get oxygen, so start discharging patients. Modi Nagar is dry,” Dr Arinjay Jain, who was not visible in the video, could be heard saying.
“We started counselling families. Some were willing to listen but the others said they would not leave. I said ok let’s do a mock drill,” he further said. “We will find out who will die and who will survive.”
“So we did that at seven am. A mock drill was done. No one knows. Then we identified 22 patients. We realised they would die. This was done for 5 minutes. They started turning blue,” Mr Jain said in the 90-second audio clip.
However, after the audio clip went viral, Mr Jain told Indian media outlets that his statements were taken out of context, and their attempt was to use oxygen “judiciously”, as the government instructed.
“We too had received instructions from the administration for judicious and rational use of oxygen. In the third week of April, we categorise our patients into those who were on high flow and those on low flow (of oxygen),” Mr Jain said.
“We had to find out the oxygen dependency of the patients to understand how we can handle the situation if there is an oxygen shortage or if the supply gets over... Mock drill means taking stock of the situation before facing an issue, to understand how to work in an emergency,” he was quoted by India’s NDTV as saying.
“We had categorised the patients...We categorised Covid patients to see which patient needs how much oxygen... Mock drill does not mean switching off a patient’s oxygen. We did not switch off oxygen. I did not clearly say so in the video. I said a mock drill was done at 7 am. In this, 22 patients were segregated,” he said in his statement.
Agra district magistrate Prabhu N Singh in a statement to Indian media outlets claimed no deaths occured due to a lack of oxygen the day the video was recorded. However, he said an investigation would be carried out.
“Initially, there was some panic and shortage but we sorted all that out in 48 hours.
“In this hospital, there have been seven Covid deaths on the 26 and 27 April. The hospital also has a lot of other ICU beds. There is no truth that 22 people died but we will carry out an inquiry,” Mr Singh said in a statement quoted by NDTV.