A private hospital in Uttar Pradesh's Agra, whose owner was allegedly caught on audio bragging about how they shut off oxygen supply on April 27 for five minutes in a "mock drill" amid the Covid crisis, has been cleared of allegations that the exercise led to the deaths of 16 patients.
The UP government had ordered an inquiry into the incident at Agra's Shree Paras Hospital after outrage.
A committee of investigators in its report concluded that none of the 16 deaths at the hospital was due to the mock drill. It said all the patients died because they were already critical or had severe comorbidities. There is no mention, however, of the date or time of the deaths.
The committee said it found 14 of the 16 patients had some comorbidity. The two remaining patients' reports showed high HRCT severity scores (infection in chest) and inflammatory indicators. All patients were treated as per Covid protocols and after checking evidence it was found that oxygen supply to none of the patients was cut off, the committee said. The cause of deaths was advanced disease and comorbidities, it said.
The complaints by families of at least seven patients out the 16 who died are not included in the report.
According to the committee's report, the investigating officer found that the hospital was given 149 oxygen cylinders with 20 in reserve on April 25 and 121 cylinders with 15 in reserve on April 26. The committee, quoting what the hospital owner Arinjay Jain told them, said this oxygen stock was found adequate for the patients admitted there. The statement has been cited as an evidence.
"It is completely untrue that patients died. No mock drill was conducted after cutting off oxygen supply. Nobody's oxygen supply was cut off and there is no evidence of this. The rumour is misleading, otherwise there would have been 22 deaths at 7 am on April 26," the committee said in the report, quoting Mr Jain.
"The hospital had oxygen, but there were issues with future supply. Oxygen assessment was the mock drill. We monitored symptoms of hypoxia and oxygen saturation levels to assess how to function if oxygen supply is limited. We conducted a bedside analysis of every patient and found 22 of the admitted patients to be in very serious condition," Mr Jain told the committee.
Three of the four members of the committee are from SN Medical College - Dr Trilok Chandra Pipal, head of anaesthesia department; Dr Balvir Singh, head of medicine, and Dr Richa Gupta from the forensic department. The fourth member is Dr PK Sharma, Additional Chief Medical Officer, Agra.
Agra District Magistrate Prabhu N Singh on June 8 said there was no death due to lack of oxygen on the day the alleged video was recorded. However, he ordered a case to be filed against the hospital under the Epidemic Diseases Act and sealed the facility.
Dr Jain has a case filed against him under the Disaster Management Act for spreading "false rumours" about oxygen shortage.
After the audio clip was widely circulated, Mr Jain indicated that 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 categorised our patients into those who were on high flow and those on low flow (of oxygen)," Mr Jain said on June 8.
Yogi Adityanath-led state government has repeatedly stressed that the state did not face any shortage of oxygen in its fight against Covid. Just a day before the drill in the Agra hospital, the Chief Minister had repeated the claim.