Naval team conducting an inquiry into the deaths of 13 patients at Tirupati government hospital because of disruption in oxygen supply

Published : May 12, 2021 19:35 IST

Member of Parliament M. Gurumoorthy (extreme right), Mayor of Tirupati R. Sireesha (second from right) and MLA Bhumana Karunakar Reddy (third from right) inspecting the restoration of oxygen supply at the Sri Venkateswara Ramnarain Ruia Government General Hospital in Tirupati on May 11. Photo: The Hindu Archives

An expert team from the Naval Dockyard, Visakhapatnam, is conducting an inquiry into the deaths of 13 COVID-19 patients at the Sri Venkateswara Ramnarain Ruia Government General Hospital in the temple town of Tirupati. The condition of three other patients continues to be serious. All three are on ventilator support.

Prima facie, they died in the intervening night of May 10 and 11 after there was a disruption in the oxygen supply for a few minutes. Officials said that the disruption was caused because an oxygen tanker from Sriperumbudur near Chennai failed to arrive on time.

Oxygen supply at the hospital was restored a few hours after the mishap, after the oxygen tanker from Sriperumbudur arrived and refilled the hospital’s 10 kilolitre oxygen tank. Another oxygen tanker, requisitioned again from Sriperumbudur, arrived in the early hours of May 11.

Said Dr Hari Krishna, the nodal officer of the hospital: “Supply of oxygen in the hospital was restored on the night of May 10 itself. As there was a decrease in pressure in the supply of oxygen for a few minutes in the ICU wards, the unfortunate incident happened. There are 170 beds in the ICU ward.”

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy announced an ex gratia compensation of Rs.10 lakh each to the families of the patients who died. He also directed the Chittoor district administration to closely monitor the situation at the Ruia Hospital, including the supply of oxygen.

Meanwhile, the bodies of the victims were handed over to their family members after the completion of formalities.

The expert team from the Naval Dockyard, Visakhapatnam, led by Dr S. Bhansodil arrived at the hospital within hours of the tragedy. The team inspected the oxygen supply network, the oxygen storage tanker and the pipelines that connect to the hospital’s beds. The team also questioned the hospital authorities on what transpired just prior to the incident and during the minutes after it. The naval team will submit a detailed report to the Centre.

Commenting on the incident, Jagan Mohan Reddy said: “The oxygen shortage is so acute that even yesterday, we sent six empty tankers by air to Odisha from Gannavaram airport. They were airlifted to save time. Efforts are on to bring these tankers by road after they are filled with oxygen. Oxygen is also being brought from abroad by ships.”

Protests were staged outside the Ruia Government General Hospital by activists belonging to the Telugu Desam Party and the Communist Party of India. They held the hospital administration and the Jagan Mohan Reddy government responsible for the deaths of the 13 patients.