HYDERABAD: The Telangana government’s claims that no one in the state died due to oxygen shortage during the ongoing second wave of Covid-19 have been rubbished by doctors, public health specialists and ground-level health workers.
The state government has, in response to a missive from the Centre to all states asking whether there were deaths of Covid-19 patients resulting from a shortage of oxygen, has informed the Centre that Telangana did not have any such death.
The letter was sent on Wednesday, health department officials said.
Fact is that at the peak of the Covid-19 second wave, there were many complaints of inadequate oxygen supplies at government and private hospitals in the state. The instances of Covid-19 patients losing lives as a result were many.
While private hospitals experiencing oxygen shortages were quick to send away Covid-19 patients to government hospitals, the latter too had made many patients gasping for breath and running around from one facility to another.
Several deaths from lack of adequate oxygen supply to the patients were reported from the Telangana Institute of Medical Sciences alone during the peak of the second wave.
However, a technical loophole appears to have come in handy for the state government in denying that any death among Covid-19 patients occurred due to shortage of oxygen supplies.
A senior doctor explained: “There is no provision in the death certificate to record that a person died due to lack of oxygen supply. It has technically not been identified as a cause of death. But this indeed was the reason for several deaths among Covid patients.”
Most deaths were attributed to various comorbid conditions.
There have also been countless accounts posted on social media platforms by distraught families as they desperately searched for an oxygen source to save the lives of their near and dear ones.
Though the health authorities have denied this, it was a common sight during the peak of the second wave to see ambulances with patients gasping for breath lining up in front of hospitals. Several of them died in the vehicles, as well as in the waiting areas of hospitals.
They died because they did not get oxygen-equipped beds. Or there were no oxygen lines on the beds they were on, to save them.
These realities are still fresh in the minds of the people who have called for several hours for oxygen cylinders, dialed repeatedly for beds and got these only to find that their patients lived for a few hours and died.
Several families have waited from 12 to 36 hours for oxygen beds. Those who made it to the emergency or waiting halls of hospitals were declared dead but those who died at home have not been accounted for by the authorities.
A doctor from a government hospital said: “When the government claims there was no death due to oxygen shortage, does it mean that everyone who required oxygen was provided with it? The answer is no. If the government claim is correct, then patients in ambulances that ran out of oxygen outside hospitals too would have been saved. That has not happened.”
Director of Medical Education Dr Ramesh Reddy said, “A committee was constituted to monitor oxygen supply for the state. Oxygen supply was maintained seamlessly for government and private hospitals. There was an hourly update in the system. There is no account of any death due to oxygen shortage.”
Opposition parties on Thursday trashed the state government’s claims that no Covid-19 patient in Telangana state had died from oxygen shortages.
Describing the claims as “utterly false and misleading,” Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee president A. Revanth Reddy said: “This report is a bunch of lies. I visited Gachibowli TIMS Hospital and other government hospitals. I have seen how patients suffered due to oxygen shortage. Patients were denied admissions due to the shortages. Relatives of patients complained to me at hospitals about how they lost their dear ones due to delayed admission on account of oxygen shortage.”
He said: “Instead of admitting the lapses, the government is trying to bury the issue. Chief Minister K. Chandrashekar Rao should explain why he placed an order for setting up oxygen units in 48 government hospitals all of a sudden in May if there was no shortage of oxygen.”
BJP vice-president D.K. Aruna poured scorn alleging that the Chief Minster was “a habitual liar,” and the report sent to Centre claiming no oxygen shortage in Telangana state proved this yet again.
“KCR has a habit of telling lies for votes and for gaining power. It's unfortunate that he is lying even on serious health issues and risking the lives of people. Seven deaths were reported from King Koti Hospital due to oxygen shortage in May but the government brought pressure on officials to report these deaths as caused by other issues. This despite relatives of the patients telling the media on record that they died due to oxygen shortage. Similar incidents happened at TIMS in Gachibowli in the same month when eight deaths were reported due to oxygen shortage. The government again hushed up the issue,” she said.
Aruna also said, “The Centre cannot be blamed for this issue because it can only release data given by the state government. When states say no deaths due to oxygen shortage, what can Centre do?”