UP probes if Agra hospital cut oxygen supply on purpose
The Uttar Pradesh government sealed a private hospital in Agra on Tuesday and ordered a probe into allegations that hospital authorities turned off oxygen for five minutes on April 26 to see which patients would survive, and left 22 people gasping for breath.
The allegations are related to a video that surfaced on Monday where Shri Paras Hospital owner, Arinjay Jain, is heard saying that he conducted a “mock drill” at 7am on April 26 during an acute oxygen shortage in the city and 22 people were “eliminated” after they “turned blue”.
Jain denied the allegations on Tuesday and said such an exercise was not done.
“An inquiry has been ordered into the oxygen supply incident at Paras Hospital in Agra. The hospital has been sealed. The inquiry committee has been directed to submit its report to the state government. On the basis of the report, further action will be taken,” said state health minister Jai Pratap Singh.
Agra district magistrate Prabhu N Singh ordered that Jain be booked for violating the Epidemic Diseases Act, creating false alarm under the disaster management act and disobeying official orders under the Indian Penal Code. Singh also denied that 22 deaths occurred on April 26.
“Shri Paras Hospital had enough oxygen and it is not true that 22 patients died there due to oxygen shortage. However, the video that is being circulated will be examined and the required action will be taken,” he said.
All 55 patients currently admitted to Paras hospital will be shifted out, he added.
Agra chief medical officer (CMO) Dr RC Pandey said he ordered a probe by two additional CMOs and the report will be submitted within two days.
The video, whose authenticity HT could not independently verify, was shot on April 28, at the height of the second wave in the country. At the time, Uttar Pradesh was posting a daily average of 34,000cases and several cities, including Agra, reported an acute shortage of oxygen and medicines.
The video doesn’t show Jain but he is purportedly heard telling a gathering of people that in the last week of April, oxygen stocks had dwindled and he asked patients to shift out because suppliers had given up.
“Then, I thought of conducting a mock drill to find out who would survive and who would die without oxygen. On April 26, at 7am, we stopped the supply of oxygen for five minutes as part of the “mock drill”. No one came to know …twenty-two patients were eliminated, they turned blue and were gasping without oxygen,” he was heard as saying.
In the clip, it is unclear whether Jain meant the 22 people were killed.
On Tuesday, Jain denied the exercise but admitted that it was his voice heard in the video clip.
“There was no mock drill as such, nor any supply of oxygen stopped for patients. The 22 were those who had high dependency on oxygen and oxygen supply to them could not be compromised,” said Jain
“There was an oxygen shortage and we were asked for judicious and rational use of limited oxygen in the third week of April. We thus thought of categorising patients as to how many of 96 patients admitted required high flow,” he said.
Officially, four Agra residents died at Paras hospital on April 26 but the reason of death was not oxygen scarcity, said Singh. He added that the toll could be higher if people from other districts admitted in the hospital were considered.
Singh said the hospital was supplied adequate oxygen from April 25 to 27, contradicting Jain, who admitted to a shortage.
Singh said the administration supplied 149 cylinders to Paras Hospital on April 25, 121 on April 26, and 117 on April 27 with 20 as back-up. “The hospital had no shortage of oxygen and no deaths took place because of scarcity of oxygen at Paras Hospital,” the district magistrate said.
This is not the first time Paras Hospital is in the news. The facility was sealed for three months last year after it was found that hospital authorities admitted patients without official authorisation. At the time, a case was registered against Jain and the hospital manager, NAME. But the hospital was designated as a Covid hospital in April, when the second wave of Covid hit the country.
Family members of some patients who died on April 26 confirmed that the hospital suffered an oxygen scarcity.
Ashok Chawla, 43, said he was told by Jain on April 26 to arrange an oxygen cylinder for his 71-year-old father, who was admitted to Paras Hospital on April 12. He said Jain informed him that the hospital had run out of oxygen.
“I managed to get a cylinder but 15 minutes later, Jain said that my father was no more. My brother’s wife died the next day because of laxity of hospital authorities,” said Chawla, a local contractor.