NEW DELHI: A parliamentary panel has criticized the government for not anticipating the severity of the Covid pandemic in the second wave. In spite of the fact that containment strategies were implemented in time, many lives could have been saved.
Rajya Sabha heard the 137th report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health on Monday and said the second wave was undoubtedly characterized by high deaths, shortages of oxygen and beds in hospitals, a reduction in medicines and other important drugs, disruption of essential health care services, hoarding and black marketing of medicines and cylinders.
Based on the committee’s considerations, it was concluded that if the Government had been able to identify the more virulent strain of the virus early in the population and implemented a containment strategy, the repercussions might have been less severe and many lives would have been saved.
COVID-19 cases are one of the most prevalent in India, according to the committee.
Faced with the pandemic, the enormous population of the country posed a major challenge.
Health infrastructure in the country is fragile, and there is a shortage of healthcare workers, which is putting tremendous pressure on healthcare providers.
Although the government was unable to predict the magnitude of the resurgence and subsequent waves of COVID-19, the committee noted that it should have continued to monitor the resurgence and possible outrage of the disease in the country when the trajectory of COVID-19 cases registered a decline in the aftermath of the first wave.
It noted that the ministry advised states to remain vigilant and devise strategies for any contingencies that may arise due to the resurgence of COVID-19.
In spite of this, the committee regrets that most states failed to handle the arising uncertainties and medical emergencies when COVID-19 resurged during the second wave, resulting in more than 5 lakh deaths.
According to the report, the Union Health Ministry should audit deaths caused by oxygen deprivation, particularly during the second wave of Covid, in coordination with states to enable robust documentation of the deaths.
According to the committee, the ministry’s “unfortunate denial” of COVID-19 deaths due to oxygen shortages was “disturbing”.
The panel said the government must conduct a thorough investigation into the oxygen-stricken Covid deaths and ensure that all victims’ families receive the appropriate compensation. According to the 137th report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health, which was presented to Rajya Sabha on Monday, the increase in Covid positive cases had put a severe strain on the health infrastructure.
The media reported stories about patients’ families begging for oxygen and waiting in queues for cylinders, while hospitals ran out of the life-saving gas and made desperate pleas when they were left with only a few hours of supply, it said.
According to the report, the committee warned the government in its 123rd report that oxygen cylinders and supplies in hospitals could be in short supply.
We are disappointed that the ministry assured the committee in 2020 that the country is self-sufficient in oxygen and oxygen cylinders; however, their hollow claim was brutally exposed by the second wave,” the committee said.
Oxygen distribution across states was uneven, and the government was unable to maintain a steady flow of oxygen in the face of escalating demand”, the panel said.
It explained that poor logistic management and the failure of the government to ensure a swift response from the healthcare system are indicative of the utter chaos of the government machinery.
Moreover, the panel found that inadequate monitoring of oxygen generation capacity and availability of oxygenated and ventilator beds in hospitals further aggravated the situation.
It is surprising that 20 states and Union Territories responded to the Union government’s request for details of Covid deaths resulting from oxygen shortage, but none of these states have confirmed any deaths resulting from oxygen shortages,” it wrote.
It is disturbing to hear that the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has denied Covid deaths caused by oxygen shortages in the country
A media report that oxygen shortages in hospitals caused many deaths is taken into account by the study.
However, the parliamentary panel noted that government jargon lacks empathy.
The panel noted there were no definite guidelines for identifying deaths due to inadequate supply of oxygen.
The committee expressed disappointment at the government’s utter “ignorance” of oxygen shortages in medical records, noting that most of the deaths were caused by co-morbidities.
Covid deaths should be audited by the ministry in cooperation with the states and documented robustly. Consequently, prompt and prudent health policies will be developed and situational health emergencies will be avoided, the statement said.