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Agra hospital in denial mode over ‘mock drill’ deaths but 7 families tell a different story

Shri Paras Hospital in Agra, Uttar Pradesh
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Shri Paras Hospital in Agra, Uttar Pradesh | ANI

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Agra: The mystery surrounding the ‘mock drill’ in an Agra private hospital that allegedly resulted in the death of 22 patients on 26 April is deepening by the day. While Shri Paras hospital management claimed there was a shortage of oxygen, the district administration has countered this saying there was no shortage in the city at the time. Meanwhile, relatives of the patients who died at the hospital on 26-27 April have a different story to tell. Seven such families complained to the district administration Monday, alleging that the deaths happened due to oxygen shortage and medical negligence.

“When I came here to collect his body, his nails had turned blue. The doctor said he died after his condition deteriorated due to a lack of oxygen. This was confusing because yesterday only the doctor had said his oxygen level was good and that he was maintaining 92 O2 level,” the father-in-law of Karthik Lavanya, 30, who died on 26 April, told ThePrint.

Rajat Jolly’s aunt, Meena Grover, 62, an asthmatic patient, was “completely fine” till 25 April evening. “She even ate her breakfast and video-called us that day. However, at 4 am on 26 April, I was asked to arrange oxygen for her. When we finally arrived at the hospital with two cylinders, the doctor declared her dead,” Jolly told ThePrint.

Relatives of two other patients who died on 26-27 April have also questioned the administration’s version.

The issue came to light after a video shared on social media last week showed Dr Arinjay Jain, owner of Paras Hospital, claim that on 26 April, he had oxygen supply to the hospital cut as part of a “mock drill” due to an oxygen crisis in the city.

“There was an acute shortage of oxygen. We were asking people to discharge their patients but no one was ready. So I decided to do an experiment, a mock drill happened,” he is heard saying in the video.

“The situation was so bad that even CM wouldn’t be able to get oxygen. Modinagar had no oxygen … We cut off the oxygen supply of patients for five minutes at 7 am on 26 April. Twenty-two patients started turning blue. Chaad gaye baayis patients. Then we asked the relatives of the remaining 74 patients to fetch oxygen cylinders,” he went on to say.

Jain later said that he had been misunderstood.

“’Mock drill’ was a slip of the tongue. It was an oxygen assessment process to calculate the oxygen requirement of all individual patients,” he told ThePrint Tuesday, adding that no deaths had occurred during the time of the exercise.

District administration says there was no oxygen shortage

The district administration sealed the hospital on 8 June.

On the same day, Agra Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Rakesh Agnihotri also registered an FIR against the hospital administration at New Agra Police Station under Section 188 (Disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant) and Section 505 (Statements conducing to public mischief) of the Indian Penal Code, Section 52 and Section 54 of Disaster Management Act 2005, and Section 3 of the Epidemic Act 1897.

Agra District Magistrate Prabhu Narain Singh told ThePrint that the hospital was sealed because of Jain’s remarks in the video about non-availability of oxygen at the Modinagar plant, which could have “created havoc” in the city.

“On 26, 27 and 28 April, in addition to the reserve oxygen cylinders they had, we had sent 149, 117, and 121 more cylinders [respectively]. That was enough to take care of their 81-93 in-house patients,” he said.

“The alleged incident of 22 people dying at Shri Paras hospital is not true because as per the official tally, four people died due to Covid-19 on 26 April and three on 27 April. These deaths were not due to oxygen shortage,” Singh added.

“However, Dr Jain should not have used the word ‘mock drill’ and disclose that there wasn’t any oxygen available at the Modinagar plant. This could have created havoc in the city and that’s why we registered an FIR against Dr Jain under the Epidemic Act. ADM (City) and additional CMO will continue to look into the matter in the coming days.”

Hospital asked us arrange oxygen, families say

Relatives of the deceased patients told ThePrint that they had been asked by the hospital to arrange oxygen cylinders.

“My uncle begged for oxygen on Twitter and I called the CM helpline multiple times but no one responded to our requests for help. We were told by the hospital to arrange oxygen cylinders at 4 am on 26 April. My aunt was maintaining 96 O2 saturation level while my grandfather around 80. How can they suddenly die?” said Mayank Chawla.

His grandfather Vasudeo Chawla, 71, and aunt Manisha Chawla, 37, died at the hospital on 26 and 27 April respectively.

Prakash Chand, an advocate at Agra Civil court, whose father Dayal Chand had died at the hospital, said his father had been shifted to the ICU ward on 26 April.

“As told by the management, I arranged two oxygen cylinders the same day. But around 5 am on 27 April, I was informed my father had died.” Chand, however, added that while he was asked to fetch oxygen, he saw several cylinders arriving at the hospital that day.

Names of the four deceased, whose relatives ThePrint spoke to, are not mentioned in the list issued by the hospital. These four families are part of the seven who complained against the hospital to the district administration Monday.

“As of now, seven families have registered complaints against Shri Paras hospital. All of them have stated medical negligence and oxygen shortage as causes of death — four of whom were Covid positive. All these cases will be investigated. We will also collect statements from Dr Jain on these matters,” Agra ADM Prabha Kant Awasthi told ThePrint.

Also read: The oxygen story exposes how India breathed too easy between the two Covid waves

Allegations baseless, claims hospital

At least two resident doctors and six senior nurses were present at the hospital when the purported oxygen assessment exercise was carried out.

Dr Upendra Rajput, who was one of the duty doctors on 26 April, told ThePrint, “Four Covid-19 patients who were on high flow oxygen died on 26 April. They were either on a ventilator or bipap machine and were natural deaths.”

When asked about the complaints filed against him and his hospital, Dr Arinjay Jain told ThePrint: “These allegations are baseless. Why did none of these families come forward for 40 days? Also, if 22 people did die at our hospital, where are the 15 other complainants?”

Contradicting his statement in the video, Jain said the hospital didn’t stop oxygen supply for five minutes but instead carried out an “oxygen assessment process” to calculate the oxygen requirement of all individual patients.

“If a patient on 12 litre oxygen who maintains 94 per cent saturation level maintains 91 per cent with 10 litre O2, it’s still good. And that’s how we tried to save up our oxygen. During this exercise, we noted the 22 critical patients who were on high-flow oxygen and asked their relatives to organise oxygen backups if ours does not arrive on time,” said Jain.

He added that of the 22 critical patients, he had saved at least six lives and that the status of the remaining patients is showing gradual improvement.

Claiming that no one died during the exercise, Dr Jain said, “’Chaad gaye’ doesn’t mean death. It means they are now categorised. No one died during or after the mock drill at 7am. The first person [who] died at our hospital on 26 April was at 4:32 pm. How could a critical patient stay alive for nine hours then?”

He added, “Even if we add both suspected or non-Covid patients, the total deaths on 26 April didn’t cross 10.”

(Edited by Manasa Mohan)

Also read: How medical oxygen is supplied to hospitals, and why India is facing an acute shortage


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