ISLAMABAD – Authorities in Pakistan suspended seven senior officers at a government hospital Monday after an inquiry found their “criminal negligence” resulted in the disruption of oxygen supply to the facility, killing six coronavirus patients.
The deaths occurred the previous day in Peshawar, capital of the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, as the country of about 220 million people battles a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The incident took place due to system failure” said the inquiry report, noting that patient care “badly suffered” in Khyber Teaching Hospital, the city’s largest. The report found that at the time of incident 90 patients were admitted in the coronavirus isolation ward who were left for hours without sufficient oxygen.
The depletion of oxygen supply “went unnoticed, unsupervised and unchecked” and there had been no backup supply system put in place. Provincial Health Minister Taimur Saleem Jhagra told reporters that the government will hold a second inquiry over the next five days.
The hospital director was among those suspended.
Pakistan has reported more than 420,000 COVID-19 infections, with about 8,400 deaths since the pandemic hit the country in late February. The number of cases dropped dramatically in mid-July to several hundred a day.
But the number of people contracting the virus has rapidly increased in the past two months. Officials said they had documented nearly 3,800 new cases in the last 24 hours across Pakistan, with 37 deaths. The national positivity rate stood at almost 10 percent, which had dropped to around one percent in July.
Intensive care units across Pakistan are said to be almost full, with federal and provincial governments struggling to deal with the health emergency and urging people to strictly comply with safety guidelines and wear masks to help contain the spread of the pandemic.
The National Command and Operation Center, which oversees the pandemic-related actions, warned Monday that more than 2,500 “COVID patients are in critical condition across Pakistan and the number of critical patients is rising fast.”