Lucknow: Union Labour Minister Santosh Gangwar has shot off a letter to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, raising concerns about shortage of medical oxygen, alleged black-marketing of essential medical equipment such as ventilators, and the difficulties Covid patients are facing in getting a bed in hospitals in his parliamentary constituency Bareilly.
This, despite Adityanath announcing last week that there is no shortage of medical oxygen in the state. He also said the administration would take strict action, which could include seizure of property, if anyone found selling medicines, oxygen cylinders and essential medical equipment in black.
While Gangwar is the first central minister to write to the UP CM about the state’s mismanagement in handling the Covid situation, several BJP MPs, MLAs and cabinet ministers in the state government had in the last fortnight written to Yogi Adityanath flagging shortage of beds, medical oxygen and other issues.
‘Hospitals want referral letter’
In his letter, Gangwar has highlighted how patients are not getting immediate medical attention despite testing positive for Covid-19. “I have received complaints that in Bareilly, patients going to government hospitals are not being admitted as the hospital is asking them to get a referral letter from the district hospital. Because of this, the patient keeps running around from one place to another and in the process his oxygen level decreases,’’ the minister said in his letter.
“This is a matter of grave concern. Please ensure that this does not happen,” he added.
The UP government had a fortnight ago announced that hospitals should not ask for a referral letter when Covid patients go to hospital to get admitted. But hospitals are continuing to deny admission to Covid patients if they don’t have a referral letter from the chief medical officer of their respective districts.
In his letter dated 6 May, seen by ThePrint, Gangawar said people from his constituency have complained to him that senior officials in the health department in Bareilly are not taking calls of patients or their attendants, which is causing a lot of hardship to the people.
Last week, BJP MP from Kanpur Satyadev Pachauri had also written to Yogi Adityanath highlighting how people in Kanpur were dying outside their homes, outside hospitals and inside ambulances because of absence of timely treatment.
‘People are hoarding oxygen cylinders’
Expressing concern over the rampant “black-marketing” of medical devices in Bareilly, Gangwar said devices used in hospitals to treat Covid-19 patients — BiPAP machines and ventilators for example — are being sold illegally and at exorbitant prices.
“It has also come to my knowledge that there is an acute shortage of empty oxygen cylinders because people are hoarding it unnecessarily. Such people should be identified… oxygen cylinders are not reaching those who need it urgently. People are hoarding and selling the cylinders at exorbitant rates,” Gangwar said in his letter.
The Union labour minister has also recommended to the UP CM that the state government should cap the prices of essential medical equipment. Besides, private hospitals registered as micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) should be given the equipment at a concessional rate.
Gangwar has also suggested that the state set up oxygen plants in Bareilly, like neighbouring BJP state Madhya Pradesh has done. He said the MP government is giving 50 per cent concession to those setting up oxygen plants.
Letters to Yogi from BJP MPs, ministers, MLAs
Resentment has been brewing among BJP MPs and MLAs over the way the Yogi Adityanath government has handled the Covid situation in the state. More than half-a-dozen BJP MPs and MLAs have written to the UP CM since mid-April when Covid cases started surging in UP, about the suffering of patients owing to the shortage of hospital beds and medical oxygen in the state.
UP cabinet minister Brajesh Pathak, who also holds the law portfolio, was the first one to write to the state government, drawing attention to the failure of the Lucknow administration to ensure beds and oxygen supply to critical patients, which led to mounting casualties.
Meerut BJP MP Rajendra Aggarwal and Mohanlalganj BJP MP Kaushal Kishore have also written to the Yogi government about the shortage of oxygen supply in both private and government hospitals. Kishore had also demanded that the Election Commission cancel the panchayat elections, to focus on the Covid crisis and restrict the spread of infections in the state.
BJP’s Bhadohi MLA Dinanath Bhaskar, in his letter to CM Yogi Adityanath on 28 April, demanded an investigation against doctors posted at a Covid facility in the district, following the death of BJP leader Lal Bahadur Maurya.
(Edited by Sanghamitra Mazumdar)