In the ongoing monsoon session, the Union Ministry informed the Rajya Sabha via a written answer that State Governments and Union Territories did not specifically report any deaths due to lack of oxygen and lack of hospital facilities during the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.
Questions were asked by Rajya Sabha member M.V Shreyams Kumar on whether a large number of Covid-19 patients died on roads and hospitals due to acute shortage of oxygen in the second wave. The Health and Family Welfare Minister, Mansukh Mandaviya said, “Although Health is a state subject, Government of India has supported the states and undertook a series of action including further strengthening of existing health infrastructure to ensure provisioning of sufficient hospital beds, drugs, medical oxygen and other consumables to aid proper clinical care of Covid-19 patients.”
On the question of whether the Central Government has maintained data about the number of patients who died due to shortage of oxygen and lack of hospital facilities, the minister’s answer read, “Detailed guidelines for reporting of deaths have been issued by the Union Health Ministry to all states/UTs. Accordingly, all states/UTs report cases and deaths to the Union Health Ministry on a regular basis. However, states have at times reported backlog deaths in case of late reporting from hospitals and districts but, no such reports of patients dying due to shortage of oxygen and lack of hospital facilities in the country have been received by the Ministry from any State/UT.”
As per a report in The Wire, around 223 Covid-19 patients died due to a shortage of oxygen in May alone. The compiled database also listed another 70 deaths where families of patients alleged that the lack of oxygen was the factor, but was not confirmed by authorities. Apart from oxygen shortages, people died outside hospitals and clinics awaiting medical attention.
The second wave saw state courts taking suo motu cognisance of the situation and pulling up various governments for faltering in their Covid-19 management. According to a SabrangIndia report, Bihar was reeling under the Covid-19 crisis from dearth of oxygen supply, cylinders, long queues outside hospitals, hoarding, black marketing to police harassment. A local reporter told the publication that a man known to him died outside a hospital waiting for a ventilator.
Bhaisa Kund (Uttar Pradesh) cremation ground’s priest, KK Pandey, while speaking to SabrangIndia in April, had said that his sister-in-law might not survive due to oxygen shortage. He had said, “The primary issue in Lucknow is oxygen. There is an acute shortage. Her levels are dropping, we cannot do anything. We have kept her in the house, where will we take her. There is a big black market, one cylinder is worth thirty thousand, forty thousand, I cannot afford it.”
The second wave that hit India in April and May saw record breaking 4,00,000 cases per day and thousands of deaths. Many hospitals even sent SOS messages on social media about oxygen shortage in their Covid-19 wards. On April 23, Max Healthcare, a large hospital chain, reached out to authorities on social media, saying it was running out of oxygen supply. “Less than an hour’s oxygen supplies at Max Smart Hospital & Max Hospital Saket. Awaiting promised fresh supplies from INOX since 1 am. Over 700 patients admitted, need immediate assistance,” the hospital tweeted.
SOS – Less than an hour’s Oxygen supplies at Max Smart Hospital & Max Hospital Saket. Awaiting promised fresh supplies from INOX since 1 am. @drharshvardhan @msisodia @PMOIndia @ArvindKejriwal @PiyushGoyal @SatyendarJain over 700 patients admitted, need immediate assistance ??
— Max Healthcare (@MaxHealthcare) April 23, 2021
Some deaths due to shortage were also recorded from Jaipur Golden Hospital in Delhi. Hospitals like Maharaja Agrasen, Batra, Max had even moved the Delhi High Court citing lack of oxygen supply. Eight Covid patients including the gastroenterology department’s head died in Batra Hospital due to oxygen shortage today on May 1.
The answer may be read here:
We have ensured nobody was left without oxygen in the country: Centre to Delhi HC
Bihar’s odious and short-sighted response to Covid-19
EXCLUSIVE: Hundreds die of Covid and data goes missing, UP gov’t remorseless
Covid patients die in Jaipur hospital, family moves Delhi HC for SIT probe
Enough is enough: Delhi HC after 8 Covid patients dead due to oxygen shortage in Batra Hospital