A leak of an oxygen cylinder caused heavy losses to families. This incident took place in the hospital named Dr. Zakir Hussain situated in Nashik, Maharashtra, on Wednesday. It is reported that 24 patients of COVID-19 who were on life support ventilators died after the leak in the medical oxygen tank as the oxygen supply suddenly stopped due to malfunction.
The leak was caused due to a valve malfunction, Though the state health minister has ordered officials to scrutinize the matter deeply in order to ascertain if any kind of negligence caused the said tragedy. The tanker was being filled to provide the COVID-19 patients with oxygen as oxygen tanks are short in supply. It is said that 2 more patients died later in the evening due to oxygen shortage after this incident. Many families who have lost their loves one due the said incident are alleging that, “The supply of oxygen was reduced purposely”
It is said that the incident occurred in the morning around 10 A.M. when the tank was being refiled due to shortage of oxygen in the COVID-19 pandemic times. This tragedy stopped the oxygen level for 30 mins which resulted in fatal deaths of the COVID-19 patients who were on life support ventilators. The leak was so dangerous and rapid, that fire extinguishers had to be called in order to contain the whole place. The hospital staff also requested help from municipal commissioner Kailash Jadhav seeking technical help to stop the leakage.
The health minister named Rajesh Tope examined that 61 of the 157 patients in the hospital were in a critical condition and required oxygen. It was also said by the Chief Minister of Maharashtra named Udhav Thakery that, “Financial relief of ₹5 lakh will be given form the CM relief fund to the families who suffered losses” He also exclaimed that, “one needs to be careful in the struggle against this pandemic. The administration will have to work very carefully to prevent any such occurrences that could erode the morale of the health personnel,”
A thorough investigation and responsibility needs to be taken so that such incidents of oxygen leaks are not repeated in any other districts. It is alleged by the families that Nashik Municipal Corporation authorities of not giving them proper information on the incident.
The Prime Minister of India, Mr. Narendar Modi, expressed his anguish in a tweet saying, “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”. Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi also condoled the deaths of the patients, which was evidently not sufficient, according to the author. The author believes that a mere tweet and expression of disappointment are not equal to the loss of lives that happened in the hospital at Nashik. The state as well as the central government could have had extra oxygen cylinders for an emergency like this. It is not true to say that the governments could not anticipate a second wave of COVID-19 and thus, could not take requisite steps. The governments had one year to prepare for a situation like this. The oxygen leak was apparently an act of negligence and thus, in such situations, it becomes the duty of the state and central governments to provide with sufficient resources and aids. The second wave evidently and visibly started in the beginning of the month of April, 2021 and the government should have started taking precautions and increase the production of oxygen tanks and requisite medicines and vaccines.
In addition to the above, the author strong feels that one cannot pin the blame for this tragedy just on mere technicians. The NMC authorities and the State government is equally to blame for this. If such tragedies are repeated in future the author expresses fears that the death toll could rise.
Health infrastructure is one of the main areas which should be concentrated upon it is an important indicator for understanding the health care policy and welfare mechanism in a country. It signifies the investment priority with regards to the creation of health care facilities. India has one of the largest populations in the world; coupled with this wide spread poverty becomes a serious problem in India.
In the times of COVID-19 where already the death rate is so high, such unprecedented circumstances are uncalled for. The resurgence of coronavirus cases has caught India’s creaking healthcare system flat-footed again, with reports of shortages in critical-care beds, oxygen, delays in testing and hospitals turning away critically ill patients pouring in from across the country. Health experts had for long warned about the consequences of underfunding the country’s health infrastructure. Anticipating for an unprecedented event is a far task for our governments because they could not foresee a surge in the cases. Various courts have also takes Suo moto cognisance on the lack of medical aids and oxygen supply. Moreover, certain hospitals have also moved the courts regarding urgent need of oxygen supply. It is clearly a fail on the part of the government.