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According to experts, the government's claim about deaths due to oxygen deficiency is appalling.

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Thursday, 22nd July 2021

According to public health experts, the Centre's claim in the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday that a lack of oxygen did not cause the deaths of COVID-19 patients was hollow and callous.

According to public health expert and epidemiologist Chandrakant Lahariya, technically no COVID-19 death would be recorded as “due to lack of oxygen,” but patient experience and the fact that the availability of oxygen would have saved lives meant that the Centre should have chosen its words carefully.

“They will be recorded as COVID deaths, with a lack of oxygen never being mentioned as an immediate cause. However, oxygen is required for treatment, and the system's failure to provide it must be acknowledged. The Centre's bureaucratic response runs counter to public perception, and a more sympathetic stance was required. If we don't, we risk making the same mistakes again,” Dr. Lahariya explained.

Malini Aisola, Convener of the All India Drug Action Network, called the Centre's position "absurd," and said it reflected a refusal to acknowledge the toll of the second wave due to massive failures to prepare and respond. “Oxygen scarcity was undeniably a direct factor in causing numerous deaths — not only in hospitals, but also in patients who became stranded in their homes and struggled to get admission in hospitals,” the report states. “A reality that cannot be erased from public memory is that of hospital owners making daily appeals for oxygen supplies to the media and courts, and publishing mortality tolls owing to oxygen shortages.”

“The declaration stated in Parliament that no deaths have been reported in states due to a lack of oxygen is both unexpected and terrible. Policymakers at the federal and state levels should not hide behind death reporting guidelines that may or may not have included explicit queries about oxygen shortages. Oxygen shortages have been well documented as a trigger and underlying cause of multiple deaths. We owe it to those who died to be upfront about the proximate causes of their deaths, to fix accountability, and to work to ensure that a situation like this never happens again in our health system,” said Anant Bhan, a researcher in Global Health, Bioethics, and Health Policy.

According to Chandrakant Lahariya, a public health expert and epidemiologist, technically no COVID-19 death would be recorded as "due to lack of oxygen," but patients' experiences and the fact that the availability of oxygen would have saved lives meant that the Centre should have chosen its words carefully.

In a written statement on Tuesday, Minister of State for Health Bharati Pawar stated that states had not "particularly recorded" incidents of individuals dying owing to a shortage of oxygen. While this is technically correct, numerous states have admitted to an oxygen shortage during the second wave, including both government and private hospitals, and hospital employees disclose a different storey.

On Wednesday, Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope stated there had been no deaths in the state owing to a lack of oxygen during the pandemic's two waves. “We have never claimed that a COVID-19 patient has died in any State hospital due to a lack of oxygen... There is no record of such a situation, and I have made no such declaration... The deaths happened as a result of co-morbidities or other medical conditions.”

“A death owing to ‘oxygen shortage' usually occurs in cases of choking or drowning and is deemed culpable homicide not equal to murder,” a Maharashtra official said on condition of anonymity. If COVID-19 patients died at a hospital owing to a lack of oxygen, a police or government investigation would be required, and a lawsuit would have to be filed.”


‘There is no case in TN.'

Tamil Nadu Health Minister Ma. Subramanian claimed that no one has died as a result of an oxygen shortage, despite the fact that the state had an acute shortage in May when the daily consumption of oxygen increased from 230 MT to over 500 MT.

However, several patients with COVID-19 waited for hours outside hospitals due to a scarcity of oxygen-supported beds, according to a number of clinicians who were on duty during the peak of the second wave. Experts on the wards, on the other hand, told a different narrative. A young doctor who worked in a zero-delay ward claimed, "Some of them even died while waiting in ambulances."

During the crisis, we had patients die from a lack of oxygen. Due to a lack of oxygen, ventilators and C-PAP devices were unable to give the needed amount, according to a government doctor in Chennai. Another doctor noted that a few patients died as a result of hypoxic brain damage induced by a lack of oxygen.

On May 11, Vimala Thomas, Director, Telangana Institute of Medical Sciences, Gachibowli, Telangana, indicated that the deaths were due to the disease's natural development and consequences, not a lack of oxygen.

The Uttar Pradesh administration did not confirm to any deaths caused by a lack of oxygen, but it did admit to experiencing oxygen shortages on multiple occasions. Following a review conference with senior officials on April 18, CM Adityanath directed them to take immediate efforts to ensure an uninterrupted supply of medical oxygen to patients, despite reports of shortages in some areas.

On May 1, a private hospital in Delhi, Batra Hospital, ran out of liquid medical oxygen and oxygen cylinders, and there was no oxygen for more than an hour. Twelve people, including a doctor, perished. On April 23, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital said that 25 critically ill patients had died in the hospital in less than 24 hours and that there was an oxygen shortage.


The News Talkie Bureau


The Hindu

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