NASHIK: Twenty-two seriously ill Covid-19 patients, including 10 women, died Wednesday afternoon after their oxygen supply was disrupted for over an hour due to a leak in the tank providing oxygen at Zakir Hussain Hospital and controlled by Nashik municipal corporation (NMC).
Eleven of the deceased were on ventilator assistance and the other 11 on oxygen. The victims were aged between 33 and 75 years. The hospital is a dedicated Covid facility and had 157 patients, 131 of whom were on oxygen support. Sixty-three patients were critical and 15 of them were on ventilator assistance when the leak occurred.
As white fumes surrounded the area, hospital staff and relatives rushed in to try to save patients. Hospital medical officer Manoj Kankariya said five patients had been shifted to other hospitals in the city after supply interruptions.
“We did our best to save the lives of as many patients as possible,” said Kankariya.
As of late Wednesday night, no FIR had been registered in connection with the incident. Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray issued a high-level probe and said no one found responsible for negligence would be spared. The state government announced ex gratia of Rs 5 lakh to the relatives of all the dead.
NMC fire brigade commander Sanjay Bairagi said four tenders were rushed to hospital within five minutes of receiving a call from the hospital. “There was a thick white fumes in the area where the oxygen tank is. Our firemen faced problems when venturing into the tank as visibility was almost zero. They managed to plug the leak in 15-20 minutes, ”he said.
He said a liquid oxygen tanker was located near the oxygen tank for refueling. “The leak was at the outlet of the tank which is connected to the hospital oxygen pipe,” he added.
The hospital is among the two large civic-run hospitals in the city of Nashik and has been treating serious and critical patients due to its constant supply of oxygen. The hospital operated the oxygen tank with a capacity of 13,000 liters of liquid oxygen on March 31.
The NMC completed a private company from Pune, an Indian subsidiary of a Japanese company, through a tender process for the provision of large tanks on a rental basis together with a 10 year secure supply of oxygen. Despite repeated attempts, the private company could not be reached for comment until press time.
According to civic authorities, the leak was noticed around 12.30pm. “The fire brigade was called and repairs were made to the tank immediately. Oxygen supply from the tank resumed sometime around 1.30pm to 1.40pm. The civic body in the meantime arranged oxygen cylinders for patients, ”said a civic official.
State health minister Rajesh Tope, who visited the hospital in the evening, said Nashik regional commissioner Radhakrishna Game will lead a team to investigate the incident. “The team will find out if it was a human or technical fault. The team, which will report within a week, will also introduce a standard operating procedure to prevent such incidents occurring in the future. There needs to be some mechanism that can remotely monitor the tank’s pressure gauges, ”he said.
Nashik district guardian minister Chhagan Bhujbal said, “It appears that the death of these patients was due to the disruption in the oxygen supply following the leak in the oxygen tank. A three-member team will investigate the incident. ”
In Video: Nashik: 22 Covid-19 patients die after leaking from oxygen tanker at Zakir Hussain Hospital