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6 die of oxygen shortage, Punjab shuts down iron & steel plants to divert oxygen

Neelkanth Hospital MD blamed district admin for giving priority in oxygen supply to state-run hospis amidst Covid crisis.

Ranjeet S Jamwal | Chandigarh |

After six patients died at a private hospital in Punjab’s Amritsar on Saturday morning allegedly due to oxygen shortage, chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh today ordered shutdown of operations in the state’s iron and steel industries to divert oxygen for medical use amid the escalating oxygen crisis in the state.

Taking stock of the situation in view of the oxygen shortages being reported from various hospitals, the CM also directed deputy commissioner (DC) Amritsar to initiate a thorough investigation into the tragic incident at the Amritsar hospital.

Five patients who died at Amritsar’s Neelkanth Multispecialty Hospital this morning were being treated for coronavirus.

The managing director of Neelkanth Hospital, Dr Sunil Devgan, blamed the district administration for giving priority in oxygen supply to state-run hospitals amid Covid crisis.

“We have been sending appeals repeatedly to the state government. Hospitals where there are no Covid patients have surplus oxygen supply. Over the last 48 hours, we have used all our resources. We have reached out for help to everybody we could. But if the government doesn’t want to help, should private hospitals shut down? Where should we go?” Dr Devgan told reporters. The state government, however, said the private hospital “prima facie seemed to have flouted orders given to all private hospitals with oxygen shortage to shift their patients to government medical colleges”.

The DC of Amritsar has been asked to ascertain the facts and circumstances leading to the deaths at the hospital. The CM said the current allocation of oxygen to Punjab is not sufficient to meet the urgent needs and he had already taken up the matter with the Centre, seeking increase in quota on urgent basis.

Sudden influx of patients from neighbouring states had put an added burden on the oxygen requirement of Punjab, he said. Ordering closure of industrial operations at the iron and steel plants, the CM said also asked for a feasibility report from the power department on use of thermal plants for providing oxygen for medical use. Punjab has witnessed a sharp increase in demand over the past few days. Demand for oxygen currently stands at 250 metric tonne (MT) per day and is further expected to go up to 300 MT in the coming days on account of spiralling Covid cases. Punjab has been tackling a surge in Covid cases over the last few weeks.

The state logged over 6,700 fresh cases in the last 24 hours.

The CM has directed for a state control room in Chandigarh to ensure that all oxygen supply from within Punjab and from outside is closely supervised and directly monitored by the government.

The district level control rooms will map all oxygen vendors, suppliers, bottler and refillers for each hospital, so that it can monitor and facilitate oxygen provision accordingly.