India: Government Accuses Hospital of Intentionally Cutting Off Oxygen to Patients

Susheela Singh, 72, whose oxygen level is low waits inside an ambulance outside a COVID-19 hospital that was set up at a Sikh Gurdwara in New Delhi, India, Monday, May 10, 2021. She was referred to a bigger hospital in the city. (AP Photo/Ishant Chauhan)
AP Photo/Ishant Chauhan

Government authorities in Agra, India, shut down a private hospital in the city on Tuesday after an audio clip surfaced online of the hospital’s owner allegedly admitting he conducted a “mock drill” in April in which he cut off the oxygen supply of severely ill patients for five minutes to “find out who will die and who will survive,” the Indian Express reported on Wednesday.

“On Tuesday evening, a notice outside the hospital announced that it would be sealed from June 8,” the Indian Express reported, adding, “The [hospital’s] administration has been told to shift the patients to another facility.”

The closure of Shri Paras Hospital in Agra, a city located in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, comes shortly after the Uttar Pradesh government ordered Agra officials to launch an investigation into the hospital’s alleged oxygen cutoff “drill,” which took place on April 26 according to the now-viral audio clip. The audio allegedly captures the owner of Shri Paras Hospital, Dr. Arinjay Jain, telling colleagues on April 28 that he decided to conduct an “experiment” on patients after learning that regional oxygen supplies were dwindling amid a surge in demand for the gas. India’s dire oxygen shortage affected hospitals nationwide in April and was caused in part by the country’s latest Chinese coronavirus surge.

The audio clip allegedly of Dr. Arinjay Jain’s admission was captured during a video recording, with the voice attributed to Dr. Jain speaking off-camera. The Indian Express translated a text of the audio clip from Hindi to English and published the transcript, along with supplemental notes, on Wednesday. An edited version of the transcription reads:

In the video clip, Jain says the “biggest [oxygen] supplier” of Agra warned him at midnight that he had limited oxygen stock, only enough to last till the morning (of April 26). He says he informed the 96 patients about the situation, and asked them to make arrangements [to leave the hospital] by (April 26) [at] 10:00 am, but nobody was willing to leave the hospital.

He says he then sought help from the “oxygen group,” but they said … “Start discharging, there is no oxygen anywhere. Even the Chief Minister [of Uttar Pradesh] cannot arrange for oxygen.”

… “We started making some people understand. … Some said they wouldn’t leave. I said no need to think too much, identify those whose oxygen supply can be cut off. Let us do a trial, a mock drill. We will understand who will die and who won’t.”

… “We did a mock drill at 7:00 am. We made it [oxygen supply] zero. Then 22 patients who were likely to die were filtered out … We immediately restored supply. They started turning blue. … 74 remained … We got time … This was our biggest experiment.”

… Responding to a question, he [Jain] says that the “mock drill” lasted five minutes. He says the families of the remaining 74 Covid [Chinese coronavirus] patients were asked to arrange for oxygen cylinders.

Agra District Magistrate Prabhu Narain Singh confirmed to the Indian Express on June 9 that the person heard speaking in the audio clip is Dr. Arinjay Jain, the owner of Shri Paras Hospital in Agra. In a statement published by India’s NDTV on June 8, Singh said, “there was no death due to lack of oxygen on that day the alleged video was recorded.”

“We have filed a case against them [the administration of Shri Paras Hospital] under the [Indian] Epidemic Diseases Act. The police will conduct an investigation. The hospital is being sealed. All 55 patients are being shifted out,” Singh said in further comments to the media.

.

Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.