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States Reported No Deaths Due to Oxygen Crisis During 2nd Wave: Govt

"We all know that due to lack of oxygen, many hospitals refused patients & many died," an Opposition leader said.

Updated
COVID-19
5 min read
India’s oxygen crisis amid COVID-19 second wave. Image used for representational purposes.
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No deaths due to lack of oxygen were specifically reported by states or Union Territories during the second wave of COVID-19, the government of India said on Tuesday, 20 July.

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare’s (MoHFW) response came in a three-part question filed by Congress MP KC Venugopal in the Rajya Sabha.

Reports claiming an acute paucity of oxygen had emerged from different parts of the country during the second-wave of COVID-19 pandemic, as social media remained inundated with desperate pleas for oxygen cylinders and concentrators for COVID-19 patients.

Many hospitals, including some prominent ones in the National Capital, had put out SOS calls for oxygen as patients with severe symptoms gasped for breath on a dwindling supply. A number of hospitals were compelled to turn patients away due to oxygen crisis and some, across the country, even reported deaths due to the paucity.

BUT WHAT IS THE GOVT CLAIMING?

In response to a question asking “whether it is a fact that a large number of COVID-19 patients died on roads and hospitals due to acute shortage of oxygen in the second wave”, the MoHFW said that health is a state subject.

“Detailed guidelines for reporting of deaths have been issued by Union Health Ministry to all states/UTs. Accordingly, all states/UTs report cases and deaths to Union Health Ministry on a regular basis,” the ministry added.

“However, no deaths due to lack of oxygen has been specifically reported by states/UTs.”
MoHFW

Further, the Health Ministry claimed that the government, however, “has supported the states and undertook a series of actions including provisioning medical oxygen, and other consumables to ensure clinical care of COVID-19 patients” in view of steep rise of COVID-19 cases during April- May 2021.

WHAT ABOUT THE DEMAND FOR OXYGEN VS WHAT WAS SUPPLIED?

Responding to a question on “the total demand of oxygen by the states and total oxygen supplied, state-wise during the last three months”, the MoHFW said that the supply of medical oxygen to hospitals is determined by contractual arrangements between the hospital and the supplier.

“However, 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.”

Thus, the ministry claimed that a “dynamic and transparent framework” was prepared in this regard, in consultation with states and all relevant stakeholders.

The government also said that the active caseload of the states/UT was the primary determinant of oxygen allocation. However, as per MoHFW, “other factors such as case doubling rate, available medical infrastructure, etc. were also given due consideration”.

“Further, the allocation was kept dynamic as per the changing pandemic load. The first allocation order was issued on 15 April 2021 and revised from time to time, based on the trends of active cases and supply position. A total allocation of 10,250 MT has been done to 26 high burden states as on 28 May 2021.”

States Reported No Deaths Due to Oxygen Crisis During 2nd Wave: Govt

(Screenshot Courtesy: MoHFW)

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WHAT ELSE DID THE GOVT CLAIM?

In response to a question regarding the steps government has taken to prevent an oxygen crisis in case of a third wave, the MoHW claimed:

“Government of India, along with the state governments took all possible steps to tackle the unprecedented surge in oxygen demand that arose in the second wave of COVID-19.”

These steps, as per the MoHFW included:

  • Enhancement of liquid medical oxygen (LMO) production from 5700 MTs in August 2020 to 9690 MTs in May 2021

  • Restrictions on industrial use of oxygen; and augmentation of availability of containers

  • A “dynamic and transparent framework” was prepared in this regard, in consultation with states and all relevant stakeholders

  • Online digital solutions — Oxygen Demand Aggregation system (ODAS) and Oxygen Digital Tracking System (ODTS) have been developed

  • Guidelines on rational use of oxygen were issued on 25 September 2020, and further revised and disseminated to states on 25 April 2021

  • States were provided with oxygen equipment such as oxygen cylinders, concentrators and Pressure Swing Adsorption (PSA) oxygen generation plants

  • With a view to increase the storage capacity of LMO in the states, under the emergency COVID Package-Part-II, 1050 Liquid Medical Oxygen Tanks along with MGPS at a cost of Rs 80 lakh each have been approved

HEALTH MIN DEFENDS CLAIM AMID FLAK

Meanwhile, the Health Ministry has garnered flak for claiming that there were no reported deaths caused due to oxygen paucity in the second wave.

Defending the claim, Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya claimed:

“Centre compiles and publishes the data sent in by state governments. Our work is to publish that data, and nothing else. We haven't told anyone to show less numbers (of deaths) or less positive cases. There's no reason for that. PM had said the same in meetings with CMs.”

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'A GOVT THAT NEITHER LISTENS NOR SEES': CONG HITS OUT

Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge, meanwhile, hit out at the BJP government for the Union health ministry's claim in the Rajya Sabha. According to ANI, Kharge said:

"We all know that due to lack of oxygen many hospitals refused to admit patients & many (COVID patients) died. If they say so, then it's the first govt that neither listens nor sees. People should teach them a lesson."

Meanwhile, Congress leader KC Venugopal has alleged that "the minister misled the house," in the official response, and said that a privilege motion will be moved against him.

"The government has given a reply today that nobody in the country died due to a shortage of oxygen. In every state we saw how many patients died due to lack of oxygen. We know. The minister misled the House. We will move a Privilege Motion against that minister," he said.

Venugopal also claimed that "this is the way in which the Government of India is doing COVID control" and that it is "totally condemnable".

"This is a clear answer because the PM is giving a presentation today, I don't know if these types of answers will be given in that presentation. This is totally condemnable."
KC Venugopal

(With inputs from ANI.)

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