Nashik / Mumbai, April 21
At least 24 COVID-19 ventilator-assisted patients were suffocated on Wednesday when their oxygen supply suddenly stopped due to a malfunction in the main store at a Nashik municipal hospital in Maharashtra, officials said.
The government will investigate whether the tragedy at Dr Zakir Husain Hospital was due to negligence, Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope said.
A private company that looks after the tank’s maintenance at the hospital, said District Collector Suraj Mandhare, adding technicians to close the tank valve prevent further deaths.
An oxygen tanker leaked as tankers were filled at Dr Zakir Hussain Hospital in Nashik, Maharashtra. A campaign to stop the leak is underway.
Nasik Municipal Corporation Commissioner says 23 patients are on ventilators and 10-11 patients are feared to have lost lives. pic.twitter.com/0bBBptfWe1
– Prasar Bharati News Services पी.बी.एन.एस. (@PBNS_India) April 21, 2021
Three days before the tragedy, Union health ministry COVID-19 data compiled between March 16 and April 15 of major cities showed that Nashik was the worst hit city in the country in cases per million inhabitants.
Wednesday’s disruption of the medical oxygen supply was caused by leaks from a storage factory, officials said.
Of the 150 patients admitted to hospital, 23 were on ventilator assistance at the time of the incident while the rest were on oxygen assistance, said a senior civic official.
The civic corporation moved 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 to seek technical assistance to prevent the leaks.
A 13 kiloliter oxygen tank was set up at the hospital site, located in the Dwarka area of Nashik.
“Around 10 am, a socket broke out of the oxygen storage tank and the leak started. When hospital staff found out about it, they used jumbo cylinders to supply oxygen to the patients and started moving some of the patients, ”said an official.
The leak has been stopped, the tank repaired and the oxygen supply normalized, he said.
Shortly after the incident, people rushed to hospital stopping rescue operations.
“An oxygen tanker had arrived at the hospital building when the leak happened. Technicians who accompanied the tanker and those technicians at the hospital broke open the tank lock and closed the valve that prevented further leakage of oxygen, ”he said.
All were on air support, the minister said. The family of each deceased will get financial assistance of Rs 5 lakh each from the CM relief fund.
“The liquid oxygen filled in the tank has a temperature of around (minus) 180 degrees celsius. There is extreme pressure on the walls of the tank supplying oxygen to patients on ventilator support, ”said Tope.
Jadhav said that no patient is in a serious condition now.
The oxygen level was around 25 percent in the storage tank at the time of the incident, he said.
Two oxygen tanks were recently installed at the hospital and the maintenance was handed over to a private company.
An officer said that the incident occurred when oxygen was being filled in one of the tanker tanks, which was disrupting the supply to patients who were on ventilators as well as those who depended on them oxygen to breathe.
Leela Shelar, who lost her 60-year-old mother in the tragedy was unlikely. “My mother was admitted on Tuesday and given ventilator support,” she said.
Shelar said when her mother complained of difficulty breathing, she asked the nursing staff to help, but they didn’t pay attention.
“I didn’t admit that my mum was here to die like this,” she said, fighting back her tears.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh expressed Koshyari ing over the tragedy.
Police dispersed a crowd of spectators and restricted access to the hospital after the incident.
Nashik police commissioner Deepak Pandey said people’s emotions were intense, adding that arrangements for adequate police deployment had been made. The area is sealed, he added.
A video of allegedly leaking oxygen from the storage factory went viral on social media this morning.
Relatives of the deceased arrived at the hospital shortly after hearing of the incident and are demanding that strict action be taken against those responsible for the tragedy. PTI