After facing flak for stating in Parliament that no deaths due to oxygen-shortage have been reported during the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Centre has now asked states and Union territories to share data on the number of oxygen-related deaths during the peak of the pandemic this year.
Reports said the information, once received, will be collated and shared with the House before the monsoon session ends on August 13.
COVID-19 patients were literally left gasping for oxygen when cases peaked in May this year. While states grappled with shortage of lifesaving drugs like Remdesivir and ICU beds, an acute scarcity of liquid medical oxygen across hospitals led to the death of scores of patients. Even as the media reported heart-wrenching scenes of kin trying to save a gasping relative or relatives of patients queuing up outside shops to fill oxygen cyclones, doctors sent desperate SOS calls to respective state governments to replenish oxygen supplies. Several states also moved the Supreme Court, praying for a direction to the Centre to send required amounts of oxygen.
A government medical facility in Goa reported at least 80 fatalities in just five days, while 11 COVID-19 patients in the ICU ward of a hospital in Tirupati died when their oxygen supply was disrupted. As many as 21 patients suffocated to death in a Delhi hospital, the case related to which is pending in the High Court.
Such was the need for medical oxygen that its demand rose to around 9,000 MT to 3,905 MT in 2020, prompting even the Supreme Court to call it a “national crisis”.
Despite wide reportage of these cases, the Centre recently told the Parliament that states and Union territories haven’t specifically reported any deaths due to shortage of oxygen during the second wave of COVID-19.
Even though the statement drew widespread criticism from several quarters with the opposition accusing the government of being insensitive, six states including Opposition-led states defended the Centre by saying that there indeed have been no deaths due to lack of oxygen under their watch.