No deaths reported due to lack of O2 by states in 2nd wave: Centre
No deaths due to lack of oxygen were specifically reported by states and Union territories during the second Covid-19 wave, the government said in a written statement in Parliament on Tuesday.
Responding to a question on whether a large number of Covid-19 patients died on roads and hospitals due to acute shortage of oxygen during the second wave, minister of state (health), Bharati Pravin Pawar in a written reply in Rajya Sabha said,“Due to unprecedented surge in demand of medical oxygen during the second wave— the demand in the country peaked to nearly 9000 MT as compared to 3095 MT during the first wave— the central government had to step in to facilitate equitable distribution to the States.”
“Detailed guidelines for reporting of deaths have been issued by the Union health ministry to all states and UTs… Accordingly, all states and UTs report cases and deaths to the Union health ministry on a regular basis. However, no deaths due to lack of oxygen have been specifically reported by States/UTs,” Pawar replied.
However, Delhi’s deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia in a statement said, “There was an actual shortage of oxygen during the second wave’s peak period of the pandemic. The central government has been running a cover-up since the very start of the pandemic. It is because of their flawed policy and implementation that the country had to endure an oxygen crisis during the toughest phase of the pandemic.”
“The Delhi Government wanted to account for the reason behind deaths during the pandemic, we had constituted a ‘Death Audit Committee’ to work towards that. The central government however did not want their fallacies to be unveiled so they did not let us go through with the committee as they knew what truth will come out in the open,” he added.
The government came under flak in the parliament with several members criticising the Centre for severe oxygen shortage during the second Covid-19 wave. Trinamool Congress’ Shantanu Sen said, “People were dying on the roads because of scarcity of oxygen and it was a matter of shame since it happened in the 21st century.” During Covid, the Centre took unilateral decisions and hands of state governments were tied, he added.
Pawar, in her reply mentioned, government actions that included provisioning medical oxygen, and other consumables to ensure clinical care of patients in view of the steep rise in cases during April- May 2021.
“A dynamic and transparent framework for allocation of medical oxygen in consultation with states and UTs and all the stakeholders such as relevant ministries, manufacturers/suppliers of liquid oxygen, etc. was prepared. The active caseload of the state and UT was the primary determinant of oxygen allocation. Other factors such as case doubling rate, available medical infrastructure, etc. were also given due consideration,” the reply read.
Further, the allocation was kept dynamic as per the changing pandemic load.
At the peak of the second wave in April and May, several cities reported an acute lack of oxygen that left critical patients gasping for breath. Prominent hospitals approached the courts and in some states -- such as Goa -- hospitals told the judiciary that patients died due to oxygen shortages.