An oxygen crisis in Goa Medical College and Hospital (GMCH), the state’s largest COVID facility, has led to the death of 74 patients in a span of four days, due to daily disruptions in oxygen supply.
Just two days after 26 patients lost their lives at GMCH, between 2 am and 6 am, the state government on Thursday, 13 May, told the Bombay High Court in Goa that 15 more patients died on Thursday morning between 2 am and 6 am. On Friday, the bench was informed of 13 more deaths from the same hospital.
However, the Pramod Sawant government and the hospital both told the court that all the deaths could not be attributed to the disruption in oxygen supply.
Court Refuses to Buy State Govt’s Defence
The judges, who had reprimanded the state government for not ensuring steady oxygen supply just a day earlier, didn’t buy the hospital’s defence on Thursday.
The high court’s Goa bench of justices MS Sonak and Nitin Jambre told Advocate General Devidas Pangam, “Statistics show that the deaths are happening due to a lack of oxygen. Do not try to deny the fact. We are aware that the issue is not sorted out yet,” Hindustan Times reported.
The bench said, “We also direct the central government to ensure that the allotted quota is made available to the state at the earliest.”
The issue relating to oxygen shortage is so severe that the court had ordered the Pramod Sawant government to drop everything and ensure that there are no deaths for “at least one night.”
‘Despite Raising Alarms...’
The petitioners who have filed a PIL in the high court claimed that 15 more deaths had taken place due to disruption in oxygen supply, though GMCH insisted that they weren’t all due to disruption in oxygen supply.
One of the petitioners, Shruti Chaturvedi, who has set up the Goa COVID network of volunteers, had earlier tweeted news about the 15 deaths and said, “Despite raising SOSes, police and health dept officials reaching GMC in the wee hours of the night after the alarm of oxygen fluctuations in the central pipeline was raised, 15 people died last night. Again.”
Relatives of patients did raise an alarm after the oxygen pressure began to drop overnight and health department officials and the police reached the hospital to help. But it was several hours before anyone was able to fix the problem and ensure a steady supply of oxygen.
Meanwhile, the Goa Forward Party filed a complaint against Chief Minister Pramod Sawant, Chief Secretary Parimal Rai, and Swetika Sachan, the nodal officer for oxygen allocation to hospitals "for causing deaths of several COVID-19 patients due to interrupted supply of oxygen in GMCH," according to news agency ANI.
The medical college’s dean Dr Shivanand Bandekar also acknowledged that the oxygen pressure had dropped during the night. He added that critical patients would be shifted out of wards that are receiving oxygen at low pressure to a newly commissioned block where the oxygen supply is steady.
The high court on Wednesday stressed that it was the state government’s duty to ensure that people didn’t die due to its inability to supply oxygen. The high court said, “This duty can neither be avoided by pleading helplessness nor by putting forth logistical difficulties in sourcing and supplying oxygen,” Hindustan Times reported.
On Wednesday, the Goa medical college dean was quoted as saying, “Reduced oxygen saturation lasting for a significant duration causes tissue hypoxia and irreversible tissue damage. This is worse in the presence of comorbidities and old age. The death following such hypoxemia and organ hypoxia may be immediate, or most of the time after some period of time.”
Advocate Pangam and Health Secretary Ravi Dhawan told the court that the Centre has agreed to enhance Goa’s oxygen supply. On Wednesday, the court was informed that the state needed 40 MT per day instead of its allocation of 26 MT.
Dhawan assured the court that two cylinders will be installed at GMCH that “will assist in tiding over the difficulties which invariably arise at the time when one set of cylinders/trolleys is replaced by another,” apart from a tank for oxygen storage by 17 May, The Indian Express reported.
Goa reported 2,491 new COVID-19 cases, 63 deaths and 2,266 recoveries on Thursday. The number of active cases in the state stands at 32,953.
‘Murder’ in Broad Daylight: Surjewala
Earlier on Friday morning, Congress General Secretary Randeep Singh Surjewala took to Twitter to demand the removal of the Goa Chief Minister, as well as the Health Minister, referring to the deaths as “murder in broad daylight”.
Meanwhile, Congress’ national spokesperson Shama Mohammad referred to the death toll as “horrifying”.
All India Mahila Congress also said that the Goa CM “should immediately step down, taking responsibility for criminal neglect”.
(With inputs from ANI, Hindustan Times, and The Indian Express)
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