Six novel coronavirus patients and one ICU patient died due to lack of oxygen at Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa facility
The Khyber Teaching Hospital on Monday suspended seven officers with immediate effect pending a probe into the death of seven patients—six suffering from the coronavirus and one admitted to the ICU—due to an oxygen shortage at the health facility.
The deceased were admitted to the hospital on Saturday night when their oxygen supply was disrupted. According to a preliminary fact-finding report, the incident has been blamed on “system failure,” as well as chronic under-filling of the hospital’s oxygen storage.
According to the report, shared on social media by provincial health minister Taimur Jhagra, the hospital had no backup oxygen storage/supply as recommended by the Health Technical Memorandum. It blamed the hospital’s management for failing to report absentee staff at the oxygen plant; as well as the supply chain department for failing to provide required number of oxygen flow meters for oxygen cylinders. The report also lamented that the hospital had no emergency rescue squad and the oxygen plant staff needed further training and skills enhancement. “The biomedical engineer [also] failed to perform his duties,” it added.
The report claimed that the services contract between the hospital and Rawalpindi-based private company Ms Pakistan Oxygen Limited had expired on June 30, adding that confirmation of extension was done verbally. “No office order regarding renewal/extension of contract is available with the record provided by the pharmacy’s manager,” it added.
The report notes that seven officials have been suspended with immediate effect, while an investigation will be conducted into the standards of Pakistan Oxygen Limited monitoring and supply system. It said qualified and trained staff would be hired for the oxygen plant, and that a primary and secondary backup system for the oxygen plant would be established on emergency basis.
The fact-finding report also calls for establishing a proper command and control system of oxygen supply, as well as a “proper emergency rescue squad” for the hospital. It states that hospital director Dr. Tahir Nadeem Khan; facility manager Tahir Shahzad; supply chain manager Ali Waqas; biomedical engineer Bilal Babak; oxygen plant assistant Niamat; and oxygen plant duty employees Waheed and Shahzad Akbar had all been suspended.
In a posting on Twitter, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Health Minister Jhagra said hospitals across the country could “learn from the systemic failures here.” In a subsequent press conference on Monday morning, he said the “traditional” system required the director-general of hospitals to manage dozens, or even hundreds, of facilities.
He said the Board of Governors of the Khyber Teaching Hospital was accountable to the government and praised the “devolved system in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa” for allowing a speedy report to be submitted. “The basic issue was that the hospital could not detect the low quantity of oxygen,” he said, adding this was the administrative wing’s responsibility. He said the report was released promptly to restore the public’s confidence in the hospital, but noted this was merely the first step.
Over the next four to five days, he said, “the hospital’s systems that need to be improved must be identified by the Board.” Then, he said, the officials suspended would be granted right to defend themselves and would be terminated from service if they were found guilty of negligence. “On Friday, the final report should be submitted to the chief minister and we will place that before you,” he added.