The Karnataka High Court on Thursday issued a notice to the BS Yediyurappa-led government seeking to know about the compensation to be given to families of COVID-19 patients who lost their lives due to oxygen shortage. The court sought the government’s reply in the next hearing.
The HC took into record the report it had sought over the deaths at the Chamarajanagar District Hospital due to shortage of oxygen, saying it will look into this as a violation of fundamental rights and not just as a case of negligence.
Chief Justice Abhay Oka, who was part of the division bench hearing a batch of petitions on the pandemic crisis, said the court will not pass orders now, but wants to put the government on notice to consider compensation for families of victims as this is a serious lapse.
According to the report submitted by Justice Venugopal Gowda-headed committee, not 24 but 36 patients (some of whom were not suffering from COVID) had died at the hospital on May 24.
Some of these deaths were related to oxygen shortage leading to brain damage or damage to other vital organs that eventually led to their deaths. The HC also took note of the fact that death audit in respect of 13 persons was not even found in the available records.
The report further stated that CCTV footage found there was no movement of any nurse or duty doctor in the wards nor any indication of minimum check of parameters like pulse and blood pressure. This gave the impression that patients were more or less abandoned by the medical personnel and left to the mercy of ward boys and attendants, the report added.
“Cumulatively, the failure of the district administration in general and the hospital authorities, in particular, including the Dean of CIMS, is apparent. A detailed probe alone can unearth the acts of omissions and commissions of the individuals concerned for fixing the responsibility," the report added.
The chief justice asked the state government to ensure that all details are maintained with the chief secretary as there was evidence of tampering of records. It further ordered the government to take a decision on the lapses and those responsible for the same.
Following are a list of other key points highlighted in the report:
- Mismanagement and complacency by district administration in planning for oxygen requirements, considering travel time of 70 km was involved for transport of cylinders
- Though 40 cylinders were made available in Mysore at midnight, the same was not transported immediately. Had the cylinders reached Chamarajanagar hospital by 2am, the lives could have been saved. The cylinders reached the hospital only at 6am as the trucks waited few more hours to load another 30 cylinders.
- Manipulation of records by tampering with the oxygen registers – about nine pages missing in two registers that were maintained.
- The camp officer in Mysore and nodal officer in Chamarajanagar “failed to act diligently and were remiss" in quick transportation of at least some cylinders leading to delay in supply.
- The deputy commissioner of Chamrajanagar, who is also the chairman of the district disaster management committee, failed to supervise during the committee during the crisis.