Six coronavirus patients at Peshawar's Khyber Teaching Hospital die as oxygen supply runs out

Published December 6, 2020
A view of the Khyber Teaching Hospital on Sunday. — Photo by Sirajuddin
A view of the Khyber Teaching Hospital on Sunday. — Photo by Sirajuddin

Six coronavirus patients at the Khyber Teaching Hospital in Peshawar died on Saturday night due to a lack of timely supply of oxygen, the hospital's spokesperson Farhad Khan confirmed on Sunday.

He said that five patients were admitted to the hospital's coronavirus ward while one was in the intensive care unit (ICU). The hospital receives its oxygen supply from Rawalpindi which did not reach on time, leading to the death of the critically ill patients, he added.

One Peshawar resident said that his two-year-old son Sarim — who was admitted to KTH — had also passed away due to a lack of oxygen supply, however, the casualty was not officially confirmed.

"My son was [admitted in the ICU] for last three days and died around 2:30am when oxygen supply was disrupted," Sarim's father Samiullah said.

The spokesperson said that more oxygen was required during the winter season. The hospital had the capacity to keep 10,000 liters of oxygen which was maintained on a daily basis and it also had backup cylinders.

He further said that the situation was "under control" and details were being acquired about the reasons behind the delay in supply.

Meanwhile, KP Health Minister Taimur Saleem Jhagra directed the Board of Governors (BoG) of the KTH to conduct an inquiry into the incident and take action within 48 hours.

Jhagra warned that if the inquiry conducted by the hospital's BoG was found to be unsatisfactory, the provincial government would "immediately order its own independent inquiry".

In a tweet, the minister said that all facts of the case would be made public and requested people to refrain from sharing unverified information on social media.

"Neither this nor any other incident will be left unused, to improve the health system, its service, and its system of accountability and transparency," Jhagra said.

Adviser to the KP Chief Minister on Information Kamran Bangash termed the incident "saddening" and said that the provincial government was committed to making the report of the incident public within 48 hours. He added that action will be taken against those responsible.

KTH Director Dr Tahir Nadeem said after the incident, Lady Reading Hospital provided oxygen cylinders to KTH and beds for the patients. The provincial health department had provided 100 fully filled cylinders to KTH recently which helped to manage the crisis, he said.

Orders have been issued to constitute a three-member inquiry committee, which will be headed by Prof Roohul Muqim. "We have done our own preliminary fact-finding and have found what the issue is," Nadeem said.

He shared that the tanker carrying the oxygen supply which arrives every night did not reach the hospital last night which led to the crisis. "Oxygen requirement has increased a lot due to Covid. Ventilators and BIPAP (Bilevel Positive Airway Pressure) machines cannot run without high-pressure oxygen.

"The tanker [of the oxygen supply company] which was going to some other district was diverted to us. We filled our tank and resumed supply by 5am. We had 300 cylinders as backup and we continued provision through them when the supply finished," he said. However, patients on ventilators and BIPAP machines could not be supplied oxygen at the required pressure.

The director added that a team from the oxygen supply company was on its way to the hospital to look into the incident.

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