‘No deaths due to lack of oxygen reported by states,’ says Union Health Min

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‘No deaths due to lack of oxygen reported by states,’ says Union Health Min

The Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare Bharati Pravin Pawar noted in Rajya Sabha on Tuesday that states or Union Territories in the country haven’t specifically reported any COVID-19 deaths due to lack of oxygen. The remark from the Union Minister comes following a question raised in Rajya Sabha, about the number of deaths that was reportedly due to lack of oxygen.

During the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, scores of media reports had surfaced about the deaths of COVID-19 patients due to the lack of oxygen availability. Various courts in the country, including Allahabad High Court and the Delhi High Court, had slammed the Union government citing the death due to lack of oxygen supply in hospitals.

Yet in a reply to Kerala MP, KC Venugopal, on whether it is a fact that a large number of patients died on roads and hospitals due to the acute shortage of oxygen, the Union Minister replied saying, “Health is a state subject. Detailed guidelines for reporting of deaths have been issued by the Union Health Ministry to all states and UTs. Accordingly, all states/UTs report cases and deaths to the Union Health Ministry on a regular basis. However, no deaths due to lack of oxygen have been specifically reported by states or Union Territories.”

Meanwhile, in Rajya Sabha, the Union Health Minister also stated that the government has taken a series of actions to ensure clinical care for COVID-19 patients.The Minister also added that the supply of medical oxygen to hospitals is determined by contractual agreements between the concerned hospital and the medical oxygen supplier. “However due to the unprecedented surge in demand of medical oxygen during the second wave, the Central government had to step in to facilitate equitable distribution to the states,” the minister added.

During the second wave, the demand for medical oxygen peaked in the country from 3,095 metric tonnes to 9,000 metric tonnes.

“A dynamic and transparent framework for allocation of medical oxygen in consultation with states and UTs, and all stakeholders such as relevant ministers, manufactures or suppliers of the liquid oxygen was prepared,” the Minister’s reply stated.

In May, Allahabad High Court observed that death of patients due to lack of oxygen is nothing less that genocide and is a criminal act. Same month, the Delhi High Court pulled up the Union government, remarking that the government might be blind to not see that people are dying, while observing the shortage of oxygen supply.

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