Pakistan: Medics suspended after oxygen shortage kills patients

Hospital director among seven suspended at Peshawar hospital after seven COVID-19 patients died due to oxygen shortage.

A health worker takes a nasal swab sample of an elderly man at a testing and screening facility for the new coronavirus, in a hospital in Karachi, Pakistan, Friday, July 17, 2020. (AP Photo/Fareed Kha
The chronic oxygen deficiency 'went unnoticed, unsupervised and unchecked,' a preliminary report said late on Sunday [File: Fareed Khan/AP Photo]

Seven officials at a Pakistan hospital in the northwestern city of Peshawar have been suspended a day after at least seven COVID-19 patients died due to a shortage of oxygen supply.

Farhad Khan, spokesman at Khyber Teaching Hospital, said on Sunday that the patients died on Saturday night when the vendor who supplies the hospital with medical oxygen failed to arrive on time.

Khan told AFP that a disruption in oxygen supplies affected some 200 people, including nearly 100 with coronavirus.

The chronic oxygen deficiency “went unnoticed, unsupervised and unchecked,” a preliminary report said late on Sunday, adding that no backup oxygen supply had been put in place.

The hospital director was among those suspended with immediate effect.

Taimur Saleem Jhagra, a provincial health minister, told AFP that authorities will hold a second detailed inquiry over the next five days.

Health officials move the body of a victim who reportedly died of COVID-19, at a hospital in Abbottabad [File: Sultan Dogar/EPA]

“The hospital was low on oxygen from around 8pm in the evening, how come they couldn’t manage to solve the issue until after 12pm?” Jhagra said.

“Some of the staff were off, some were absent and there wasn’t any alternate arrangements, even the emergency squad was not available,” he added.

Pakistan has reported more than 400,000 cases of coronavirus – including more than 8,000 deaths – since it arrived in late February.

Intensive care units in hospitals across the country are now almost full, with provincial governments struggling to deal with the soaring caseload.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies