Thirteen patients died at the Chengalpattu Government Hospital in Tamil Nadu on Tuesday night following an alleged disruption in oxygen supply, The News Minute reported.

However, there is conflicting versions on the number of patients who were suffering from coronavirus. Doctors at the hospital have claimed that those dead included coronavirus patients and those suspected to have contracted the infection. The district authorities have claimed that only one of them was suffering from coronavirus, while a report by The Hindu suggested that all 13 were Covid-19 patients.

The district authorities have also denied that the deaths were caused due to lack of oxygen supply.

“Twenty-three kilolitre is our capacity for oxygen there and we had 10 kilolitre and two external three kilolitre oxygen set-ups,” District Collector John Louis said, according to The News Minute. “We also had cylinders that were refilled and when the pressure dropped we continued this. There is no question of oxygen shortage.”

However, post-graduate doctors protesting since Wednesday morning about the alleged negligence of the hospital administration denied Louis’ version. They claimed to have warned the administration about depletion in oxygen supply on Tuesday morning. But the dean and other senior doctors failed to address the matter, they alleged.

“Even if the deceased patients had other co-morbidities, isn’t it the duty of the hospital to make sure that necessary resources are available for the patients?” one of the protesting doctors told The News Minute, on conditions of anonymity.

Meanwhile, the hospital’s dean J Muthukumaran said that oxygen was available in the tank from which it was supplied to more than 300 patients admitted to the Covid-19 ward, but it did not have sufficient pressure, The Hindu reported.

“The Covid-19 ward is supplied with oxygen from the 10 kilolitres tank,” Muthukumaran said. “As several government and private hospitals are also in need of oxygen supply, our hospital has been receiving only around 4 kilolitres to 5 kilolitres to be filled in the three oxygen tanks, which would be enough to treat patients on regular days.”

However, he maintained that the deaths were not caused due to shortage of oxygen, the Hindustan Times reported. He added that some of the patients recovered from coronavirus, but still had respiratory problems.

“They died due to age, comorbidities and the condition of the diseases despite receiving treatment and not because of oxygen shortage,” said Muthukumaran.

Oxygen crisis

Shortages of medical oxygen have been reported from several states as daily Covid-19 infections have soared since the start of April in the second wave of the pandemic.

On May 2, twenty four patients died in Chamarajanagar district hospital in Karnataka allegedly due to lack of oxygen supply. A day earlier, 12 patients, including a doctor, died in Delhi’s Batra Hospital after oxygen ran out for more than an hour at the private facility.

On April 24, at least 20 coronavirus patients in Delhi died after the Jaipur Golden Hospital ran out of oxygen. A day before, 25 “sickest” coronavirus patients died overnight at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital in the city amid a last-minute scramble for oxygen.

Courts across the country have pulled up state governments and the Centre for deaths due to lack of oxygen. On Tuesday, the Allahabad High Court said that such incidents were “not less than a genocide”. Earlier, the Delhi High Court had issued a show-cause notice to the central government asking why contempt action should not be initiated against it for not complying with its orders on oxygen supply to the Capital. Last week, the Supreme Court had issued a notice to the Centre and sought a “national plan” on oxygen and drug supply to coronavirus patients.