Several patients and hospital staff in India have lost their lives due to oxygen accidents during the second wave of COVID-19.

A man in PPE suit inspecting oxygen cylinders
news COVID-19 Monday, May 10, 2021 - 08:47

The Kerala Health Department has issued  guidelines on the precautions to take to avoid chemical accidents including medical oxygen leakage in hospitals. During the second wave of COVID-19, most hospitals are generating and consuming a great deal of liquid medical oxygen. Leakage in oxygen supply systems through pipes, hoses, valves, improper electrification, and improper equipment operation are major risk factors, and the guidelines were issued for the safety of patients and staff.

Government and private hospitals must strictly adhere to the regulations, the state government said. According to these guidelines, biomedical engineers, with the assistance of a technical agency, are required to conduct a technical audit within a specified period of time to ensure the safety of hospitals and ICUs.

Risk factors at hospitals need to be identified and addressed to prevent accidents. The guidelines state that thorough inspections of ICUs wards with oxygen supply needs to be done and problems should be resolved by inspecting electrical systems and equipment, including earthing. At the same time, employees should be given good training, the guidelines stated.

It further added that an incident response team should be set up at each hospital, in the event of an accident and an evacuation plan should be prepared in advance. Basic fire safety equipment should also be installed in closed spaces such as ICUs, besides ensuring cross ventilation and mechanical ventilation.

The use of flammable materials such as curtains should be restricted. The Fire and Safety Committee must identify potential hazards and address them, the guidelines stated, adding that all hospitals should immediately form an incident response team and report to the district control room.

The guidelines further said that mock drills should be performed and awareness should be provided to patients and caregivers. If surgeries are being done in ICUs in the emergency phase, then such surgeries should only be performed in accordance with fire and safety standards.

In April this year, 22 patients died in a hospital in Nashik due to oxygen leakage, while a tanker was filling the oxygen tank. According to officials, oxygen supply to the ventilator was cut off for 30 minutes during the process, leading to the patients’ deaths. On May 5, 13 COVID-19 patients lost their lives in In Tamil Nadu’s Chengalpattu government hospital after the pressure in their oxygen supply dropped due to a technical glitch.