Probe begins: Expired contracts, Class VIII dropout technician...

Stated

Hours after five patients died at the government-run Sushruta Trauma Centre ICU where supply of oxygen failed, it emerged that the two contracts with the private company responsible for the central gas supply system had not been renewed after expiry.

The hospital also told police that the sole company employee on duty at the gas plant at the time of the incident was a Class VIII dropout with no technical training.

Representatives of the PES Installations Pvt Ltd and the hospital confirmed that though the contracts had run out, the company had been managing the supply system under an informal arrangement till the renewal process was complete.

PES Installations was engaged since 1998 when the hospital was set up. The first contract, under which the company was required to provide trained manpower to the hospital, ran out last February. The annual maintenance contract expired at the end of November.

Sources said correspondence between the hospital and the company show that PES Installations on October 18 said it was "not in a position to continue services" unless its contract on manpower was renewed. Hospital authorities, in a letter on October 25, said the company was "requested to continue with the services, since the file regarding the renewal of your contract to manage the central gas pipeline, is in the pipeline, and as you are aware you are providing life saving services".

"The hospital had forwarded the consideration for renewal to the finance department. It was for the government to renew the contract or invite fresh bids," an official said.

The hospital attendance roster shows that only six and not the mandatory nine staffers had reported for duty since November 20.

On November 17, the company sought sanction of Rs 2 lakh to replace certain equipment. The money was released though the maintenance contract was running out. Health minister Dr A K Walia said this aspect would also be examined by the inquiry committee.

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