'Inflated' oxygen need: Kin of people who died due to oxygen shortage demand fair probe

·5-min read

New Delhi, Jun 26 (PTI) A day after the Delhi government came under fire for purportedly inflating the city's need for oxygen, families of people who lost their lives due to shortage of the life-saving gas in the national capital during the second Covid wave have demanded a fair probe into it.

A report of five-member sub-group constituted by the Supreme Court to audit oxygen use in hospitals in the national capital during the second wave in April-May said the Delhi government 'exaggerated' consumption of oxygen and made a claim of 1,140 MT, four times higher than the formula for bed capacity requirement of 289 MT.

The panel said the Delhi government had made the claims for allocation of 700 MT oxygen on April 30 of medical grade oxygen using a 'wrong formula'.

Erick Massey, whose mother Delphin Massey died at the Jaipur Golden Hospital allegedly due to oxygen shortage, said he doesn't feel there was an exaggeration in requirement.

'It was not just us who were victims of the oxygen shortage. All over, there were friends and relatives who were struggling to get oxygen cylinders. Some people even bought them for Rs 1 to Rs 1.5 lakh.

'We don't think there was an exaggeration. There were entire families affected by the virus and there were so many hospitals who raised SOS,' he said.

Gaurav Gera lost both his parents within an hour gasping for oxygen. His father, Charanjit Gera, was admitted to Jaipur Golden Hospital while his mother, Sonu Rani, was at Ambedkar Hospital.

'There are so many people who have lost their family members due to lack of oxygen. At Jaipur Golden Hospital, we were told the patients could have been saved had there been an adequate supply of oxygen. In fact, I feel that many more people died due to oxygen shortage than the numbers which were reported,' he said.

Jagjyot Singh's mother Sarabjeet Kaur was one of the 20 casualties on the fateful night of April 24 when the Jaipur Golden Hospital in the city waited for its oxygen stock to be replenished.

He the Delhi government accountable for failing to read the situation properly.

'The Delhi government did not have a vision and did not know how much oxygen was required to be supplied to hospitals. This meant that there was not a proper supply. There needs to be a proper investigation into the matter.

'My mother was on the path of recovery. We arranged medicines and everything that the hospital asked us for. Their job was only to give her medicines and oxygen and they could not do that,' Singh said.

Demanding an investigation on the loopholes which might have led to the crisis, he said they have also approached the Delhi High Court demanding a court-monitored probe.

At Batra Hospital, 12 patients, including a senior doctor of the facility, had died due to a dip in oxygen supply.

Dr Sudhanshu Bankta, executive director of the hospital, said there was a huge oxygen crisis at that time, but refused to comment on the report, which has put the Delhi government on the dock, contending that he is not privy to the entire data of oxygen supply and demand.

'From our own experience, we can say there wasn't an adequate amount of oxygen. It seems to be a political fight rather than something which is driven by facts.

'There was a huge oxygen crisis. There was a problem everywhere. If you go through the WhatsApp records of all hospitals which are in official Delhi government groups, everyone was crying for oxygen. I cannot comment on the motive of the report but the situation at that time was really scary,' he said.

Delhi was hit severely by a brutal second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in April and May, claiming a massive number of lives daily, with a shortage in oxygen supply at various city hospitals adding to the woes.

The panel in its report pointed out that four model hospitals in Delhi -- Singhal Hospital, Aruna Asaf Ali Hospital, ESIC Model Hospital and Liferay Hospital -- have claimed extremely high Oxygen consumption with very few beds and the claims appeared to be clearly 'erroneous, leading to extremely skewed information and significantly higher Oxygen requirement for the entire state of Delhi'.

However, AIIMS director Randeep Guleria said on Saturday the report, submitted by the Supreme Court-appointed panel headed by him, is an interim one and not the final word.

Two members, B S Bhalla, the Delhi government's principal home secretary, home, and Max Healthcare's Clinical Director Sandeep Budhiraja, questioned the conclusions.

Bhalla gave his objections and comments on the 23-page interim report shared with him on May 30. The report has an annexure of communication sent by Bhalla on May 31 in which he said a reading of the draft interim report makes it 'painfully apparent' that the sub-group, instead of focussing on the task, delineated from the terms of order of the Supreme Court dated May 6.

The BJP has charged the Delhi government with 'criminal negligence' after the report came into the public domain on Friday, while AAP leader and Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia alleged that the 'bogus' report was 'cooked up' at BJP's office.

Seeking to move on from the controversy, Chief Minister Kejriwal has called for everyone to work together to ensure there is no shortage of oxygen in the next Covid wave.

The virus will win if there is a fight among stakeholders, Kejriwal tweeted. PTI SLB NSD

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