UP: Yogi Claims 'No Shortage' of Oxygen, Over Dozen Die in a Day, Others Struggle for O2
Lucknow: A few days after Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath said there was no shortage of oxygen in the state, as many as 20 critically-ill patients have died at Meerut’s KMC private COVID dedicated hospital due to low stock of oxygen in the past few days. The hospital on Tuesday morning said it had oxygen for only 50 minutes and sought for urgent government help.
The district administration, however, denied oxygen shortage in hospitals in Meerut and said that those who expired were critically ill.
"Nine critically ill COVID patients died last night over oxygen crisis. The oxygen stock was never completely dry, but the pressure was low as we were running out of stock," Dr. Sunil Gupta, D.K. chairman of KMC Hospital, told reporters on Wednesday after the death of 9 patients, adding that Meerut district has been grappling with shortage of oxygen supply for the past seven days amid a surge in coronavirus cases.
Unofficial estimates say at least 35 patients have so far died in different hospitals in Meerut district in the past 24 hours, and many private COVID hospitals in the district are allegedly refusing to admit new patients due to oxygen scarcity.
Speaking with NewsClick, Abhishek Gupta, whose 50-year-old brother Subhash Gupta was among those who died, alleged the hospital authorities tried to “cover up the lapse” by arranging oxygen cylinders after the tragedy took place. Agitated family members of the deceased persons created a ruckus at the hospital, following which senior police officials rushed to the spot and defused the tension.
Meanwhile, despite claims by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath of adequate oxygen stocks in the state, hospitals across the state are facing an oxygen crisis due to the spike in the number of active cases.
For instance, eight patients died at Paras Hospital in Agra owing to the lack of medical oxygen. The hospital authority said they had alerted the district administration about the same a few days ago.
"It was informed to the district administration that the crisis of oxygen availability has started in government and private hospitals of Agra and Agra District Magistrate Prabhu Singh also acknowledged shortage of medical oxygen in the last 24 hours. Till then 9 patients died due to shortage of oxygen," Abhimanyu, an employee of Paras Hospital, told NewsClick, alleging the supply was not provided to the hospital on time despite repeated requests.
Hospitals in Agra and other cities have started putting up posters outside their premises, announcing non-availability of beds for COVID-19 patients. Several hospitals have even put up notices, asking family members of patients to arrange their own oxygen cylinders. "Those who care for their loved ones must bring their own oxygen cylinders," says one such notice.
NewsClick spoke to some doctors treating COVID-19 patients in the state to get insights into the situation on the ground.
Dr Ahmad, who has been treating COVID patients in Gorakhpur, claimed there was acute shortage of oxygen in the Chief Minister’s bastion. Five patients in Barhalganj's Durgawati Hospital died allegedly because oxygen flow was “slowed down” for some patients fearing a shortage.
"People are dying due to unavailability of oxygen in Gorakhpur and adjacent areas, including Deoria, Kushinagar, Mahrajganj and Basti, but it is not being reported due to fear, as UP government has directed officials to take action under the National Security Act and seize the property of those “spreading rumours” and trying to "spoil the atmosphere", Ahmad told NewsClick, adding that “If the hospital had sufficient stock of oxygen, as per Adityanath government’s claims, why did it suddenly ask authorities for oxygen supply or make SOS requests for oxygen cylinders on social media?”
‘NO SHORTAGE’, REALLY?
Namita Aggarwal in Gorakhpur's Tiwaripur area said she ran from pillar to post, sending SOS messages on social media for an oxygen cylinder for her mother but could not get one, resulting in her mother’s death.
"My mother had all symptoms of COVID and was unable to breathe properly. She would have been alive today if she was given oxygen on time, but the hospital authorities did not get cylinders on time from the supplier," she told NewsClick, adding that she was not alone in her struggle for oxygen in Gorakhpur.
Meanwhile, K Vijyendra Pandian, the District Magistrate of Gorakhpur, denied there was any shortage of oxygen or any delay in supplies to hospitals.
“It is completely baseless to say that we are running short of oxygen in the city. We have sufficient oxygen for everyone and replenish it when hospitals approach us," he said,
NewsClick spoke to another family in Mohaddipur area of Gorakhpur, where the father was in dire need of oxygen at new Shivay Hospital. The son said his father oxygen level keeps dropping despite testing COVID negative. "Even after two days of struggle and visiting four hospitals, we did not get an oxygen cylinder. Why is the CM claiming there is sufficient oxygen when his home town is lacking," he alleged.
Chief Minister Adityanath has claimed on several occasions that there is no shortage of oxygen. On Monday, the state dispatched 400 cylinders to Madhya Pradesh, even as people in UP are running around in panic for oxygen beds.
NewsClick spoke with at least five other patients in state capital, Lucknow, Agra, Meerut and Gorakhpur, who claimed that oxygen scarcity continued to haunt their kin.
On Tuesday, Uttar Pradesh recorded its highest COVID-19 death toll so far as 265 people succumbed to the disease, while the state added nearly 33,000 fresh cases, taking the overall tally to 11,53,097, according to official data. With the fresh fatalities, the total death toll in the state reached 11,678, the data showed. Of the 265 new COVID-19 deaths, Lucknow recorded 39, followed by 15 each in Kanpur and Ghaziabad, while Allahabad and Varanasi recorded 13 deaths each.
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