At least 22 COVID-19 patients were reported to have lost their lives on Wednesday at Nashik’s Dr. Zakir Hussain Hospital owing to acute shortage of oxygen following massive leakage from a tank.
Confirming the deaths, State Health Minister Rajesh Tope said a probe would be ordered into the incident.
Local Shiv Sena leader Sudhakar Badgujar, who was among the first to reach the spot of the accident, expressed fears that the toll could rise higher and touch 30-35.
Sources said that the mishap occurred sometime around noon. Massive leakage from an oxygen tank caused disruption in vital oxygen supply for at least half an hour, which allegedly resulted in the deaths of several patients who were on ventilator support.
A fire brigade team as well as technicians rushed to the spot of the mishap.
Nashik Municipal Corporation (NMC) Commissioner Kailas Jadhav said there were around 150 patients – of whom 127 were on oxygen and the remaining 23 on ventilator.
“This is an extremely unfortunate incident. Our priority at the moment is to save those on life support. There will be a high-level inquiry to probe whether the tank was properly maintained or not. I cannot comment on it at the moment,” said Mr. Jadhav.
The NMC Commissioner said that the tank had been mended and that surviving patients were being supplied oxygen from a jumbo cylinder.
Chaotic scenes erupted on the hospital premises as fraught relatives of patients converged upon the scene of tragedy. The irate kin accused NMC authorities of not giving them proper information on the mishap.
BJP Leader of Opposition in the Legislative Council Pravin Darekar said that the Nashik civic body authorities were to blame for the negligence and demanded a case of culpable homicide be lodged against the NMC Commissioner.
“One cannot pin the blame on this tragedy just on technicians. The NMC authorities and the State government are equally to blame for this,” Mr. Darekar said.
Incidentally, the BJP is in power at the NMC. The fact that no BJP representative reached the accident spot soon drew accusations of callous politicking by the party.
“There is no question of playing politics here. Devendra Fadnavis [Leader of Opposition in the Legislative Assembly] and myself are available for people 24 hours a day. In this case, it is clearly NMC authorities who are to be blamed for negligence,” Mr. Darekar said.