A private hospital owner at Agra in Uttar Pradesh is under investigation after an audio emerged purportedly him telling the hospital to shut off oxygen supply on April 27 for five minutes in a “mock drill” amid acute oxygen shortage everywhere. At least 22 patients apparently died by his action.
Arinjay Jain, the owner of Paras Hospital, could be heard saying in the 1.5-minute audio clip from April 28: “We were told that even the Chief Minister cannot get oxygen, so start discharging patients. Modi Nagar is dry. We started counseling families. Some were willing to listen, but the others said they would not leave. I said OK, let’s do a mock drill. We will find out who will die and who will survive. So we did that at 7 am. A mock drill was done. No one knows. Then we identified 22 patients. We realized they would die. This was done for 5 minutes. They started turning blue.”
The hospital also has a COVID facility on its premises.
In a statement, Agra District Magistrate Prabhu N Singh, said there was no death due to lack of oxygen the day the alleged video was recorded. However, he said a probe would be conducted, NDTV reported.
“There was some panic, but we sorted all that out in 48 hours. In this hospital, there have been seven COVID deaths on April 26 and 27. The hospital also has a lot of other ICU beds. There is no truth that 22 people died, but we will carry out an inquiry,” Singh said in the statement.
The hospital owner indicated his statements were misinterpreted. “We too had received instructions from the administration for judicious and rational use of oxygen. In the third week of April, we categories our patients into those who were on high flow and those on low flow (of oxygen),” Jain said.
“We had to find out the oxygen dependency of the patients to understand how we can handle the situation if there is an oxygen shortage or if the supply gets over…Mock drill means taking stock of the situation before facing an issue, to understand how to work in emergency. We had categorized the patients…We categorized COVID patients to see which patient needs how much oxygen… Mock drill does not mean switching off a patient’s oxygen. We did not switch off oxygen. I did not clearly say so in the video. I said a mock drill was done at 7 am. In this, 22 patients were segregated.”
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has condemned the incident, hitting out at the ruling BJP. “There is a severe shortage of both oxygen and humanity under the BJP rule,” he said in a tweet. He has demanded action against those responsible for the “dangerous crime”.
Visuals of desperate people lining up outside oxygen plants around the state had hit headlines in April, and many hospitals treating coronavirus patients across Uttar Pradesh had repeatedly complained of oxygen shortages.
In most cases, the state government had denied that there was a shortage and claimed all efforts were made to supply oxygen on time. Criminal action was also taken against a Lucknow hospital for allegedly lying about oxygen shortage.