After 24 people died at the Chamarajanagar District Hospital owing to lack of oxygen supply, the families allege negligence on the part of government authorities.
Mysuru: When Rani got a call around 11:30 p.m. on Sunday, May 2, she never thought it was a death knell. Surendra, her husband was one of the 24 people who passed away in the Chamarajanagar General Hospital owing to lack of oxygen. Three hours earlier, Rani had seen Surendra, almost recovered, ready to be discharged in a couple of days. She couldn’t believe her ears when her husband started whispering on the video call that people were dying of lack of oxygen. The call got disconnected suddenly, and when she tried to reach him again, the phone was dead.
It took Rani only a few minutes to reach the hospital, and when she did, the hospital authorities told her that Surendra had passed away. He was 32. He was admitted to the hospital on April 29, and they had been married for a month and a half.
Channappa, Gram Panchayat Bill Collector, who belongs to the same village as Surendra, Doddahomma in Nanjangud Taluk said that the hospital is trying to cover up the mess they created owing to lack of oxygen supply. He said, “The new liquid oxygen medical plant that was inaugurated in Chamarajanagar district days before did not help. We did not receive any help from the District Commissioner, nor the hospital authorities. He left us too soon.”
Vasu, Rani’s brother is furious at the hospital’s nonchalance and negligence. “The hospital said 24 people died that night, but I’m sure the number is more than that because eight to nine bodies were piled on top of each other in at least four rooms. The math does not add up, you see,” he said.
Mohammed Ameeq, Councilor, Ward- 03, Galipura, where the hospital is situated expressed indignation about the issue. “It’s a clear case of negligence on the part of hospital authorities. They could have helped the situation, they did not,” he said.
He continued, “The hospital does not have basic facilities like providing hot water to COVID-19 patients. There is a dearth of staff, two to three people are put in the same bed, and they have botched up the number of deaths. It’s more than 24.”
Chamarajanagar District Hospital is one of the largest government hospitals in the district. There are 3,049 active cases in the district. “I saw a body lying in the hospital compound when I went to take stock of the situation. The hospital said they did not have any idea about the body lying there at all. That’s the state the hospital is in. Today morning, we received that 10 more people have died in the hospital,” he said.
Kafeel Ahmed, a volunteer, at the Popular Front of India, helped with the cremation of all those people who died in the hospital. “I’m not sure of the numbers, but I helped cremate 18 bodies out of the 24. The District Commissioner (DC) knew from two days before that the hospital had an oxygen problem but they did not do anything about it,” he said.
“The government knew from April 2020 that there will be a shortage of health infrastructure in the country because of COVID, and still they did not do anything,” said Dr Chandrakant Laharia, a public health doctor. “More than a year later, when all the states are battling the second wave, the government has its own issues of supply-chain. It’s not just about manufacturing, it’s also about distribution, and if the country was better prepared, people would not have died during the second wave,” he added.
While the families are inconsolable, the government authorities have indulged in a blame game. The Chamarajanagar DC MR Ravi said that oxygen cylinders were supplied from Mysuru and the supply got delayed which led to the deaths. The Mysuru DC, Rohini Sindhuri issued a counter-statement saying that there was no delay in the supply, and they sent the cylinders as soon as they received the distress call. The Karnataka government has ordered a probe into the deaths.