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Gorakhpur tragedy: Oxygen supplier says it never stopped supply, suspects cylinder theft led to shortage

The company involved in the supply of liquid oxygen at Baba Raghav Das (BRD) Hospital in Gorakhpur has claimed that it never stopped the supply despite outstanding dues of Rs 69 lakh, The Times of India has reported. The company, Pushpa Sales Pvt Ltd, has said that the college was defaulting on the payment for liquid oxygen supply which was a violation of the contract but despite that the company never interrupted the supply.

Meenu Walia of Pushpa Sales told the newspaper, "Liquid oxygen supply by Pushpa Sales to BRD hospital, irrespective of overdue payment, was duly maintained. First supply for this month was made on 4 August and the next intimation for refilling request from the BRD hospital came on 11 August, which was fulfilled on 12 August.". She added that the company had also issued a legal notice to the hospital but had never stopped supply.

The MD of the company Manish Bhandari suspected that a big oxygen cylinder theft led to the depleted supply. He was quoted by The Times of India as saying, "Since April, this problem of delay in payment by the hospital had compounded. There were three conditions as part of our contract, according to which liquid oxygen, oxygen cylinders and Ambu bags were to be present at the BRD in abundance. But the hospital became too dependent on us while not refilling their cylinders. The government must find why there were just around 50 cylinders instead of 400 on that particular day when deaths took place. I suspect a big oxygen cylinder theft or racket, which they must find it out."

File image of the encephalitis ward at BRD hospital. PTI

File image of the encephalitis ward at BRD hospital. PTI

It had earlier been reported that the vendor had stopped supplying oxygen due to non-payment of Rs 70 lakh. This had been confirmed by Gorakhpur district magistrate Rajeev Rautela. However he said that the college principal had informed him that alternative arrangements were available for emergency use. Rautela also said that a payment of Rs 35 lakh has been made to the vendor, and that he had been requested not to disrupt the oxygen supply.

A letter addressed to the hospital chief and written by the vendor had suggested that an outstanding payment of Rs 63,65,702 was the reason behind the disruption of the oxygen supply.

"We are informing you beforehand that the INOX company (the manufacturer of the oxygen cylinders) has informed us (it) will not supply gas for the cylinders in the future to avoid financial losses," the letter read.

Over 60 children have reportedly died at BRD Hospital since 7 August. At least 30 children were reported dead in the last two days alone. Many of the victims were infants who perished in the neonatal intensive care unit.

The state government had ruled out lack of oxygen as the cause behind the deaths. State health minister Siddharth Nath Singh said, “After the first level of investigation, we can claim that the deaths did not take place due to disruption of gas supply. The discussions happened in detail, but issue of gas supply that should’ve come to light didn’t come up,” said Singh.

With inputs from agencies

Updated Date: Aug 15, 2017 09:21 AM

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