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Agra hospital gets clean chit, govt panel says 16 deaths not due to ‘mock drill’ over oxygen supply

Govt panel says Shri Paras Hospital didn’t conduct any ‘mock drill’ over oxygen supply on 26 April that led to 22 deaths. It said 16 people died on 26-27 April due to comorbidities.

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New Delhi: A government inquiry into the alleged ‘mock drill’ incident in Agra’s Shri Paras Hospital, which was said to have led to the deaths of 22 people on 26 April due to lack of oxygen supply, has given a clean chit to the hospital administration.

According to the panel comprising a four-member death audit committee and two investigating officers, constituted by the Agra district administration, the hospital neither conducted any such ‘mock drill’ over oxygen supply nor did 22 people die on that day.

The panel said 16 patients died at the hospital between 26 and 27 April. Seven were Covid-positive, seven were Covid suspected cases and two were Covid-negative.

Moreover, the deaths were caused “due to the severe stage of their disease and other comorbidities”.

“On the basis of all the evidence by the investigating officer and the death audit team, it was found that the oxygen of any patients was not stopped. Adequate oxygen gas has been supplied to the hospital on the said day. Patients have died due to the severe stage of their disease and other comorbidities,” said the report, accessed by ThePrint.

Six of these patients had comorbidities like diabetes. Six others had other comorbidities like hypertension, coronary artery disease, among others. Another two had pre-existing liver disease and high blood pressure as comorbidities, said the report. Only two patients didn’t have any comorbodities.

According to the report, all 16 patients were treated in accordance with the Covid protocol and were on oxygen support either via oxygen mask, bipap machine or a ventilator.

However, the panel has charged the hospital management for violating the Disaster Management Act 2005, and Section 118 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant) and Section 505 (statements conducing to public mischief) of the Indian Penal Code for “taking the decision to discharge patients citing lack of oxygen when the epidemic was at its peak”.

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The allegations

The incident came to light after a video shared on social media last week showed Dr Arinjay Jain, owner of Shri Paras Hospital, claim that on 26 April, he had oxygen supply to the hospital cut as part of a “mock drill” due to an oxygen crisis in the city.

“There was an acute shortage of oxygen. We were asking people to discharge their patients but no one was ready. So I decided to do an experiment, a mock drill happened,” he is heard saying in the video.

“The situation was so bad that even CM wouldn’t be able to get oxygen. Modinagar had no oxygen… We cut off the oxygen supply of patients for five minutes at 7 am on 26 April. Twenty-two patients started turning blue. Chaad gaye baayis patients. Then we asked the relatives of the remaining 74 patients to fetch oxygen cylinders,” he went on to say.

The hospital administration had claimed that there was a shortage of oxygen at the time, the district administration countered this saying there was no shortage in the city. Relatives of patients, however, alleged that the deaths happened due to oxygen shortage and medical negligence.

After the video surfaced, the license of Shri Paras Hospital was suspended and the hospital was sealed by the Chief Medical Officer.

Now, the government inquiry has cleared the administration on the ‘mock drill’ charge.

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‘Sufficient’ oxygen was available, says panel

Describing the circumstances on the day in question, the report said the hospital was informed about the “abnormal supply of oxygen gas on the night of 25/26 April at 2:00 am by the vendor of M/s Shambhavi Trading Company so that the management would reach the hospital in time to make the necessary preparations beforehand”.

On 25 and 26 April, the Agra District Magistrate had supplied 149 and 121 oxygen cylinders, in addition to the 20 and 15 reserve cylinders it had on those days, respectively, said the report.

“This was found to be sufficient for the patients admitted there in those circumstances,” it said.

The panel also noted how the relatives of some patients reached the hospital with cylinders from their own sources on these two days, as reported by ThePrint.

The panel consisted of Dr Trilok Chand, head of anaesthesia department, Dr Balbir Singh, head of department of medicine, Dr Richa Gupta, associate professor, department of forensics — all of SN Medical College in Agra — and Dr P.K. Sharma, deputy chief medical officer, Agra.

Hospital owner says ‘criminal conspiracy sensation’

The report quoted Shri Paras hospital owner Dr Arinjay Jain as saying: “No mock drill was done with oxygen switched off. None of the patients’ oxygen was stopped, nor is there any such evidence. The above propaganda is misleading otherwise there should have been 22 deaths on 26-04-2021 at 07.00 am. Oxygen was available in the hospital, but there was likely to be a problem of supply shortage.”

The doctor is further quoted to have said: “Oxygen assessment is a mock drill. By monitoring hypoxia symptoms (dyspnea, cyanosis) and oxygen saturation levels, we applied a weaning process of oxygen supply, because of which we were able to work even in limited supply. Individual bedside analysis of each patient was done, which showed that out of the critical patients admitted, 22 patients are very serious.”

He also said that the video, which he believed was recorded at around 5-6 pm on 28 April, was published to create a “criminal conspiracy sensation”.

The police will now make a detailed investigation into the origin of the video, the people present in it and the reason behind not making the whole video public at once. The committee will also listen to the whole video once it is found.

Mayank Chawla, whose grandfather Vasudeo Chawla, 71, and aunt Manisha Chawla, 37, died at the hospital on 26 and 27 April, respectively, told ThePrint that he will take the matter to the high court.

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