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Pakistani Hospital Staffers Suspended After Oxygen Shortage Kills COVID Patients

A health official in protective gear holds samples collected from people at a screening and testing facility for COVID-19 in Peshawar. (file photo)

Pakistani authorities say they have suspended seven workers at a Pakistani hospital after six COVID-19 patients who were left without sufficient oxygen died.

Five patients in the coronavirus isolation ward and one in the intensive care unit at the government-run Khyber Teaching Hospital (KTH) in the northwestern city of Peshawar died due to the delay in sourcing oxygen, a preliminary report said late on December 6.

The oxygen deficiency "went unnoticed, unsupervised, and unchecked," and no backup oxygen supply had been put in place, according to the report.

The hospital’s director, Tahir Nadeem Khan, was among those suspended.

KTH spokesman Farhad Khan told RFE/RL that oxygen cylinders are being supplied every day to the hospital by a company in Rawalpindi, some 150 kilometers east of Peshawar, but that there was a delay in the delivery on December 5.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province’s Health Minister Taimur Khan Jhagra said that authorities will conduct a second, more detailed inquiry over the coming days.

"The hospital was low on oxygen from around 8 p.m. in the evening, how come they couldn't manage to solve the issue until after midnight?" Jhagra told AFP.

The minister said that "some of the staff were off, some were absent, and there wasn't any alternate arrangements, even the emergency squad was not available."

Earlier reports said at least seven COVID patients had died at the Peshawar hospital due to a shortage of oxygen supply.

The incident came as hospitals in Pakistan are struggling to cope with a second wave of the coronavirus outbreak.

The country has recorded more than 416,00 cases since late February, with over 8,300 related deaths.

With reporting by AFP