Probe Into BHU Hospital Deaths Finds Use of Industrial-Grade Gas to Administer Anesthesia

The private firm that supplied the gas to the hospital does not possess a licence to produce medical nitrogen oxide.

New Delhi: A probe into the unusually high number of deaths in the surgery ward at Sir Sunderlal Hospital at Banaras Hindu University in early June has found an industrial-grade gas was used to administer anesthesia.

Industrial-grade gas is not permitted in medicine.

Between June 6 and 8, at least 14 surgery patients died at the hospital, prompting the Allahabad high court to order a probe. A joint investigation team of the Centre and UP government was constituted for the purpose.

At the time of the deaths, doctors had suspected that an injection used in anaesthesia – which was bought from outside the hospital – had caused serious harm to the patients, while some had alleged issues with the operation theatres.

According to Times of India, the July 18 probe report of the UP Food Safety and Drug Administration stated: “It has been found that nitrous oxide of non-pharmacopoeial grade was being used at this hospital. This gas doesn’t come under the category of allowed drugs.”

Officials stated that whether the use of the gas – supplied by an Allahabad-based private firm Parerhat Industrial Enterprises – had caused the deaths is still under investigation.

An RTI reply by K. G. Gupta, assistant drug inspector of Allahabad – which is part of the probe report – states that the firm “has neither licence to produce medical nitrogen oxide nor oxygen.”

Ashok Kumar Bajpai, the firm’s director, is the father of BJP’s Allahabad North MLA Harshvardhan Bajpai, who owns shares worth Rs 1.21 crore in Parerhat Industrial Enterprises, Times of India reported.

Bajpai, while admitting to non-possession of a licence to produce medical nitrogen oxide, dismissed charges that the gas was the cause of deaths at the BHU hospital. “The same gas is being supplied to hospitals at King George’s Medical University in Lucknow and Motilal Nehru Medical College in Allahabad,” he said.

The probe report also states that the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation, Ghaziabad, and a BHU fact-finding committee had endorsed the findings.

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