At least 24 COVID-19 patients die at Nashik hospital after oxygen tanker leak


Valve malfunction led to disruption of oxygen supply to COVID-19 patients on life support.

In a shocking incident, at least 24 COVID-19 patients who were on life support have lost their lives in Nashikโ€™s Dr. Zakir Hussain Hospital owing to acute shortage of oxygen following massive leakage of the gas from an oxygen tanker.

The death toll in the incident rose to 24 after two more COVID-19 patients died in the evening, a top district official said. “Two more patients, who were on ventilator, succumbed in the evening. They could not get sufficient oxygen earlier in the day when its supply stopped due to the leakage in the tank,” collector Suraj Mandhare told PTI.

Earlier in the day, attributing the cause to a valve malfunction in the tanker, State Health Minister Rajesh Tope said that a probe to ascertain negligence had been ordered into the incident.

Sources said that the mishap occurred sometime around noon. Massive leakage from an oxygen tank caused disruption in vital oxygen supply for at least half-an-hour, which allegedly resulted in the deaths of several patients who were on ventilator support. A fire brigade team was rushed to the spot of the mishap to contain the leak.

Mr. Tope said 157 patients were undergoing treatment at the hospital, of whom 61 were in a critical condition and required oxygen.

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Local Shiv Sena leader Sudhakar Badgujar, who was among the first to reach the spot of the accident, expressed fears that the death toll could rise higher and that as many as 30-35 patients could lose their lives.

Nashik District Collector Suraj Mandhare said that oxygen was present in the tanker at the time of the leakage. โ€œThis tanker is from a private vendor. Apparently, technicians were tried to fix the valve when low pressure caused the leakage. This led to the deaths of 22 critical patients who were on ventilator support. My deepest condolences to the kin of the deceased,โ€ Mr. Mandhare said.

Acknowledging the anger and grief felt by relatives of the deceased, the Collector urged people to maintain restraint and assured that a thorough probe was underway.

โ€œCurrently, the other patients are being supplied oxygen from the repaired tanker. They are in a stable condition, as per medical authorities,โ€ Mr. Mandhare said.

Chaotic scenes erupted on the hospital premises as fraught relatives of patients converged upon the scene of the tragedy. Irate kin accused the NMC authorities of not giving them proper information on the mishap.

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Leader of Opposition in the Legislative Council Pravin Darekar said that the Nashik civic body authorities were to blame for negligence and demanded a case of culpable homicide be lodged against the NMC Commissioner. โ€œOne cannot pin the blame for this tragedy just on mere technicians. The NMC authorities and the State government is equally to blame for this,โ€ Mr. Darekar said.

The BJP is in power in the NMC.

The fact that no BJP representative reached the accident spot soon drew accusations of callous politicking on part of the saffron party from several quarters.

โ€œThere is no question of playing politics here. Devendra Fadnavis (Leader of Opposition in the Legislative Assembly) and myself are available for people 24 hours a day. In this case, it is clearly NMC authorities who are to be blamed for negligence,โ€ Mr. Darekar said.

The tragedy comes at a time when Maharashtra, the worst-hit State in India in terms of COVID-19 cases and fatalities, is reeling under an acute shortage of oxygen.

Along with Pune, Mumbai and Nagpur, Nashik has witnessed massive case spikes and COVID-19-related deaths in both waves of the pandemic. The district, which has been recording an average daily spike of 3,000 cases, has around 45,000 active cases at present, while its total death toll stands at 2,672.

(With PTI inputs)

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