At least six coronavirus patients died at a government hospital in Madhya Pradesh’s Shahdol district allegedly due to a shortage in oxygen supply, reported The Indian Express on Sunday.

The pressure of liquid medical oxygen dropped around 10 pm on Saturday at the Shahdol Medical College. The ICU had 62 patients.

Milind Shiralkar, the dean of the medical facility, confirmed the toll but not the cause of death.

He admitted that the oxygen level in the tank was running low on Saturday and authorities had asked for a refill. However, the truck carrying oxygen for refilling stopped at Damoh as the drivers do not travel after midnight. The liquid medical oxygen tank was not refilled till 11 am on Sunday.

However, Shiralkar said: “If low oxygen supply was the reason of deaths, the deaths would have been at a much larger scale since at present the hospital has at least 62 patients in its ICU unit alone and a total of 255 Covid positive patients undergoing treatment at the hospital.”

Shiralkar explained that the medical college uses a dual oxygen supply system. One system is a direct supply of liquid medical oxygen to various units of the hospital connected through pipes to an oxygen tank, he said. The other system consists of about 245 jumbo oxygen cylinders, which are used as a backup.

Since these jumbo cylinders were pushed into use as soon as the pressure of liquid oxygen dropped, the cause of death cannot be confirmed as drop in oxygen supply, he added.

Meanwhile, Madhya Pradesh Congress president Kamal Nath asked the government how long the deaths due to lack of oxygen will continue in the state. “[Chief Minister] Shivraj ji, how long will you keep on lying, serving false statistics about the supply of oxygen even as god-like public is dying every day?” he asked in a series of tweets. “The same situation is across the state, a severe crisis of oxygen is in most places.”

Nath noted that antiviral drug remdesivir was also in short supply and alleged that the government was claiming that the medicine and oxygen were available but the situation in hospitals was different. “The government should look at the situation on the ground instead of holding meetings, the situation is very difficult,” the former chief minister said.

The state has witnessed a steep rise in its oxygen consumption. On March 22, 64 metric tons were consumed. This rose to 179 metric ton on April 7 and further increased to 234 metric ton the next day.

The state on Saturday registered 11,269 coronavirus cases, taking the infection tally to 3,95,832, reported PTI. It currently has 63,889 active cases. The demand for oxygen was 330 metric tons on Saturday and is expected to increase to 440 metric tons by April 20.

Similar situations related to oxygen supply is being reported from different parts of India. States such as Maharashtra and Delhi have complained about the shortage in oxygen supply. With nearly 20 lakh people currently infected with coronavirus in India, oxygen is running out, despite many states redirecting all industrial oxygen production to medical purposes.

Earlier on Sunday, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan had said that the production of medical-grade oxygen was being doubled. The Centre has sanctioned 162 Pressure Swing Adsorption plants in health facilities in all states, the Ministry of Health said. “These will augment medical oxygen capacity by 154.19 MT [metric tonnes],” it said.

On Thursday, the government said it would import 50,000 metric tonnes of medical oxygen.