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The Andhra Pradesh government recently told the High Court that the negligence of the oxygen supplier led to the deaths of COVID-19 patients on ventilator support at the Ruia Hospital in Tirupati.

A COVID-19 patient is given an oxygen supply mask inside an ambulance outside the COVID-19 OPD of a government hospital in AhmedabadImage for representation/PTI
news Coronavirus Thursday, August 12, 2021 - 10:24

The Union government has admitted to the death of COVID-19 patients due to unavailability of oxygen in at least one instance, in an incident at the Ruia Government General Hospital in Andhra Pradesh, where 23 COVID-19 patients died on May 10, 2021. Earlier on July 20, the Ministry of Health had claimed that no deaths due to lack of oxygen were reported during the second wave of COVID-19. Since then, however, the Andhra Pradesh government has reported that 23 COVID-19 patients died at the Ruia Hospital in Tirupati, allegedly due to delay caused by the oxygen supplier. Responding to a question raised by Telugu Desam Party (TDP) Rajya Sabha MP Kanakamedala Ravindra Kumar on August 10, Tuesday, on whether the Union government had made any inquiry into the Tirupati incident, Minister of State (MoS) for Health Bharati Pravin Pawar said that the Andhra Pradesh government had recently communicated the details of the mishap. 

In a communication dated August 9, 2021, the Andhra Pradesh government told the Union government that on May 10, 2021, “at Sri Venkateswara Ramnarayan Ruia (SVRR) hospital, some patients who were on ventilator support died while undergoing treatment for COVID-19.” The preliminary inquiry incident report found that the interval between the leveling out of a 10KL oxygen tank and the switching on of the emergency backup manifold system of the hospital led to a drop in pressure in the oxygen lines, Bharati Pravin Pawar told the Rajya Sabha. The drop in pressure led to insufficient oxygen being available for the patients mainly on ventilator support, her response stated. 

Earlier on July 13, the Andhra Pradesh High Court while hearing a PIL seeking action against those responsible for the patients’ deaths at Ruia Hospital, had asked the state government to file a detailed affidavit. The News Minute had reported that on July 23, hospital authorities filed a police complaint against the oxygen supplier, based on which an FIR was registered. The police complaint mentioned that as per a preliminary enquiry conducted by the Chittoor District Collector M Hari Narayanan, it was found that the oxygen supplier had delayed providing oxygen from Tamil Nadu on time, in spite of an alert being raised. The complaint also blamed the supplier for failing to maintain the emergency backup manifold system, and the alarm system meant to sound an alert in case of a drop in oxygen pressure.

Andhra Pradesh Principal Secretary (Health) reiterated these allegations to the High Court in an affidavit filed on Saturday, August 7. The affidavit filed on behalf of the state government claimed that the negligence of the liquid medical oxygen supplier Shree Bharat Pharma and Medical Oxygen Distributors resulted in the deaths of COVID-19 patients on ventilator support. 

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