On Tuesday, 20 July, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said that no deaths due to lack of oxygen were specifically reported by states or Union Territories during the second wave of COVID-19.
Social media platforms were rife with people pleading for any aid with oxygen cylinders or concentrators throughout the second wave of the pandemic out of desperation. In some hospitals around the national capital, doctors were nowhere in sight as patients lost the battle for their lives due to the paucity of medical oxygen across the country.
Several people also spoke about hospitals turning away their loved ones as they did not have the capacity to take new patients, as they did not have enough for the patients they were already treating.
'NO DEATH' DUE TO LACK OF OXYGEN SPECIFICALLY REPORTED
Noting that health is a state subject, the MoHFW stated that they had issued detailed guidelines for reporting deaths to Union territories and states.
“However, no deaths due to lack of oxygen has been specifically reported by states or Union territories.”
Adding that state and central governments took 'all possible steps' to tackle the sudden and unprecendented surge in demand for medical oxygen during the second wave, the Ministry claimed that a 'dynamic and transparent framework' was prepared when the Centre had to step in to ensure equitable distribution of oxygen among states.
As hospitals sent out SOS tweets regarding acute shortage of oxygen and tagged ministers for urgent help, people ran from pillar to post for aid for their loved ones. At the time, hand-operated oxygen pumps were allegedly being rented at Rs 40,000 per day in Uttar Pradesh's Lucknow.
""I was devastated to see people dying outside the compound walls of hospitals due to lack of oxygen supply."" - Union Minister Nitin Gadkari at a press conference
The Quint spoke to Dr Sumit Ray earlier, head of critical care at Holy Family Hospital, which also sent out SOS calls during the devastating second wave of the pandemic.
"You will have to establish that oxygen levels fell for a number of patients at the same time, you will have to establish that there was a sudden drop in O2 levels, you'll have to match it with hospital logs of oxygen levels. Machines auto reset in 72 hours, so unless they extract that data quickly, it is lost."
In Gurugram's Kriti Hospital, videos of doctors going into hiding emerged after six patients lost their lives due to alleged oxygen shortage and attendants started assaulting medical staff.
A senior doctor at the hospital, requesting anonymity, said, “We raised multiple SOS calls regarding oxygen shortage but received no help from the administration. Attendants were asked to move patients to other hospitals. Later that day we lost six patients after which some attendants started assaulting the medical staff including doctors and we had hide to save our lives.”
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