Contrary to the ground reports of deaths due to lack of oxygen supply, the Union government on Tuesday told the Rajya Sabha that no deaths due to lack of oxygen has been specifically reported by the states and Union Territories (UTs).
Mansukh Mandaviya, the newly appointed minister of health and family welfare, in a written reply says, "...states have at times reported backlog deaths in case of late reporting from hospitals and districts but, no such reports of patients dying due to shortage of oxygen and lack of hospital facilities in the country have been received by the Ministry from any state or UT."
However, according to community data tracker created by Data Meet, between April and 16 May 2021, about 512 deaths took place due to lack of oxygen and shortage or denial.
Bengaluru-based Thejesh GN, founder of Data Meet had told New Indian Express
that “We started this project in May and have covered deaths that have taken place since April 2021, releasing updated data every Sunday night. We noticed the number of deaths due to shortage of oxygen and we wanted to record it, so it will not get lost a few years from now. They deserve to be noticed."
Oxygen-related deaths recorded are based on reports from newspapers and news media in English and regional languages, social media and networks of volunteers working on the ground, as per the website projects.datameet.org/covid19/, the report says.
MV Shreyams Kumar, a member of Parliament (MP) had asked a question about acute shortage of essential medical services including availability of drugs and hospital beds in the country during the second wave of COVID-19 in April 2021 and number of patients who died due to shortage of oxygen and lack of hospital facilities in the country.
In his reply, the minister says, "Although health is a state subject, government of India has supported the states and undertook a series of action including further strengthening of existing health infrastructure to ensure provisioning of sufficient hospital beds, drugs, medical oxygen and other consumables to aid proper clinical care of COVID-19 patients."
"The daily liquid medical oxygen (LMO) production, which was about 5,700 metric tonnes (MTs) per day in August 2020 was increased to a high of 10,500 MTs as on 13 May 2021. This was done by enhancing LMO production in steel plants as well as in other LMO plants," the minister added.
According to Mr Mandaviya, orders for additional 127,000 cylinders have been placed on 21 April 2021, including 54,000 jumbo cylinders (D type) and 73,000 regular cylinders (B type). Deliveries of the same have started and 24,207 (24,511 B-type and 8,893 D-type) cylinders have been delivered as on 7 July 2021. In addition, around 4,962 B-type and 1,895 D-type cylinders are in-transit. 23,247 Cylinders received from foreign aid have also been distributed to states and UTs.
"In addition, 1.5 lakh SPO2 based oxygen control systems cylinders are being procured by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) under Prime Minister's Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations (PM CARES) Fund. One lakh oxygen concentrators are in various stages of procurement and distribution to states under PM CARES Fund," the minister added.