As many as 24 patients including 23 suffering from Covid-19 died in Karnataka's Chamarajanagar due to alleged oxygen shortage in the district hospital, officials said.
The deaths occurred during a timespan of 24 hours from Sunday to Monday morning, officials added.
While the authorities have ordered a death audit report to probe the incident, they have maintained that not all patients died due to oxygen shortage.
"It's not appropriate to say that all the 24 deaths happened due to oxygen shortage. These deaths had happened from Sunday morning to this morning. The oxygen shortage happened in the wee hours of Monday -- from 12.30 AM to 2.30 AM," Chamarajanagar district in-charge and state education minister S Suresh Kumar said.
However, the kin of the deceased staged a demonstration at the hospital and alleged that the deaths occurred due to shortage of oxygen.
Taking cognizance of the incident, Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa called the deputy commissioner of the district and obtained information about the tragedy.
Suresh Kumar said the death audit report would detail what these patients were suffering from, whether they had any comorbidities and in which state they were brought to the hospital. "All the people who died may not have died due to oxygen shortage," he added.
According to him, there is a stock of 6,000 litres of Liquid Medical Oxygen (LMO) but there was a need for oxygen cylinders. "The cylinders were supposed to come from Mysuru but there was some glitch," Kumar said.
He also said he has explained the situation to the Chief Secretary of the State, personal secretary to the Chief Minister and the Additional Director General of Police Pratap Reddy, who is in charge of oxygen supply in the state.
"I have also told the officials to find a permanent solution for the supply of oxygen in Chamarajanagar district. There indeed is a problem in Mysuru but that should not hinder the supply of oxygen from Mysuru to Chamarajanagar and Mandya," Suresh Kumar added.
Expressing his sorrow over the death of 24 people, the minister said he would be rushing to Chamarajanagar to take stock of the situation.
Meanwhile, the Congress on Monday demanded the resignation of the Karnataka health minister.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi asked how much more will people suffer before the system wakes up. "Died or Killed? My heartfelt condolences to their families. How much more suffering before the 'system' wakes up," he asked on Twitter.
Died or Killed?— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) May 3, 2021
My heartfelt condolences to their families.
How much more suffering before the ‘system’ wakes up? pic.twitter.com/JrfZbIo7zm
Congress general secretary Randeep Surjewala also hit out at the YS Yediyurappa government. "This is murder by designed negligence of Yediyurappa Govt! Health Minister must resign," he said.
"Will CM Yediyurappa ji own moral responsibility for the deaths," Surjewala also asked.
(With PTI inputs)
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