Chamarajanagar tragedy was waiting to happen
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Chamarajanagar tragedy was waiting to happen

May 6, 2021

On Apr. 23, 30 oxygen cylinders were rushed from Kollegal to save patients at the nick of time 

Kollegal: Ten days before the Chamarajanagar tragedy occurred where 24 COVID-19 patients died at the District Hospital owing to lack of oxygen, the District was severely facing oxygen shortage and all appeals by doctors for oxygen replenishment fell on deaf ears. Though a new oxygen plant was established at the Hospital, it has the capacity to fulfil oxygen for only 1.5 days. 

The oxygen situation first went out of hand on Apr. 23 where doctors struggled and ran from pillar to post to fulfil the breathing requirements of the patients. This incident was treated lightly by the authorities concerned and the result was a full-blown tragedy on the intervening night of May 1 and May 2. 

On Apr. 23, lives of many patients were saved due to the concern, professional commitment and presence of mind of Chamarajanagar COVID Nodal Officer Dr. Mahesh and Dr. Rajashekar, who is the Orthopaedic Surgeon at Kollegal Sub-Division Government Hospital. 

Sources told Star of Mysore that on Apr. 23, the Chamarajanagar District Hospital that is a hub for poor patients taking treatment for COVID, faced acute oxygen shortage as all the cylinders were exhausted and even the supplies from the oxygen plant stopped as there was no refilling. 

Grave situation

Sensing the impending danger that was to unfold in just one hour due to oxygen shortage, Dr. Mahesh was trying his best to procure oxygen from any source. Fathoming the gravity of the situation, he was desperately making calls and he called   Dr. Rajashekar in Kollegal. 

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Dr. Mahesh explained to Dr. Rajashekar that patients would die of breathlessness if oxygen cylinders do not reach the Hospital within one hour. He requested Dr. Rajashekar to spare some cylinders and promised to return them filled after the Hospital gets its fresh quota. 

Responding to the request, Dr. Rajashekar agreed to send 30 cylinders to meet the emergency requirement. But the situation was so pathetic that there was not a single Government vehicle to take the cylinders to Chamarajanagar from Kollegal. It is illegal to transport oxygen cylinders in a private vehicle and Dr. Rajashekar felt that saving the lives was important than towing the legal line at that moment. 

30-km in 45 minutes

He then called Vishwa, a private vehicle owner and sent 30 cylinders to Chamarajanagar. The life-saving medical gas arrived at the nick of time and Vishwa traversed the distance of over 30 kilometres in about 45 minutes. If the cylinders had not arrived on time, the incident would have hit headlines. 

The doctor’s community in Chamarajanagar have been discussing this incident and according to them, it is sheer presence of mind and commitment shown by Dr. Mahesh and Dr. Rajashekar and not to forget Vishwa who saved many lives. They told Star of Mysore that Chamarajanagar was facing oxygen shortage since 10 to 12 days. 

“This is a daily occurrence here. As the patient numbers increase, we are desperate and hunt for cylinders and as refills arrive, we heave a sigh of relief. Desperate calls are made and SOS signals are sent overnight to source oxygen in some way. Authorities have turned a blind eye to our plight and in the end, doctors are blamed,” said a doctor in Chamarajanagar on condition of anonymity. 

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A few days back, there was oxygen shortage at Santhemaralli Hospital and patients had to be shifted to Chamarajanagar Hospital. “When oxygen stock ran out at a Private Hospital in Chamarajanagar, we shifted the patient to the Government Hospital to save his life. Every day is a struggle and we leave no stone unturned to save lives,” the doctor added. 

It took loss of 24 lives to shake-up authorities and Government and wake them up to the ground reality. Only now, there is a streamlined supply of oxygen to Chamarajanagar  District Hospital.

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