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Oxygen vendors threaten to stop supply to govt hospitals

By Rituraj Borthakur

GUWAHATI, Oct 28 - The Gorakhpur saga is poised to be repeated in Assam if the State Health Department does not wake up from its prolonged slumber.

Two months after the tragedy in Gorakhpur, UP, in which over 60 children died in a hospital allegedly due to lack of oxygen supply, vendors in Assam have said they would not be able to continue oxygen supply to the government hospitals citing crores of pending dues.

In a letter to the Director of Medical Education, one of the vendors, Meghalaya Oxygen Private Limited, stated, �We again bring to your kind notice that we have an outstanding of Rs 3.77 crore as on September 30, 2017.� The supplier has not received payment for the last two years.

�We have been supplying oxygen gas without any interruption day and night on all occasions, let it be festival, state holiday, etc. Now, it has become impossible to supply further until we receive our outstanding payments. We will not be able to continue the supply from November 1,� the letter stated.

The Guwahati Medical College and Hospital (GMCH) needs the maximum medical oxygen in the State. �Around 250 patients survive on medical oxygen daily at GMCH, of which around 100 are infants,� sources said.

Sources said another vendor, Premier Cryogenics Ltd, which supplies oxygen to the government hospitals in Guwahati, has not received payments to the tune of Rs 2.65 crore and has also intimated it to the government.

Around six years back, the vendors used to receive the dues monthly. Later it became half-yearly and since January 2016, no payments were released.

Sources said the vendors had threatened to stop supply in July last, setting off alarm bells in the government. Top health officials had immediately held a meeting with the representatives of the firms and assured them of clearing the dues �very shortly�.

�Despite the assurance, no payments have been made yet. The Health department has been taking the issue casually. The supply is very vital and if stopped, it may have disastrous consequences,� sources said.

Following the death of over 60 children undergoing treatment at the Baba Raghav Das Medical College in Gorakhpur since August 7, there was enough evidence to show that the hospital and the state administration ignored reminders and requests by the private firm that supplied oxygen for payment of outstanding dues.

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