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Monday, June 21, 2021

Nightmare runs on in Goa hospital: 15 more die as oxygen dips

The state's largest Covid facility reported 15 more deaths between 2 am and 6 am on Thursday as oxygen supply pressure dipped.

Written by MAYURA JANWALKAR | Panaji |
Updated: May 14, 2021 8:04:52 am
Doctors said, oxygen pressure could be restored only in 20 minutes, which proved fatal for 15 patients.

A DAY after the High Court of Bombay in Goa directed the state government to ensure there were no more deaths due to oxygen issues, Goa Medical College and Hospital (GMCH), the state’s largest Covid facility, reported 15 more deaths between 2 am and 6 am on Thursday as oxygen supply pressure dipped.

Relatives and resident doctors at GMCH made frantic calls through the night as the oxygen pressure started falling in the hospital’s Covid wards around 1 am. One of the petitioners in the PILs filed in the High Court over Covid management said that after she received an SOS call, she reached out to the authorities, and that officials of the Health Department and police rushed over.

However, doctors said, oxygen pressure could be restored only in 20 minutes, which proved fatal for 15 patients.

The High Court had urged the government to ensure there were no more deaths due to oxygen on Wednesday, after Health Minister Vishwajit Rane said deaths of 26 Covid patients at GMCH in the early hours of Tuesday might have been due to oxygen issues. Told about the fresh deaths Thursday, the court said, “We are sorry.”

A resident doctor at one of the GMCH wards said pressure in the central pipeline started falling around 1 am Thursday, and three patients in his ward succumbed to the fluctuations, despite their attempts to revive them. “Relatives called us frantically saying patients were gasping for breath and their saturation levels (SPO2) had dropped to 40-50.” Relatives are allowed to be in wards with the critical patients.

On the night of Wednesday-Thursday, there was a drop in oxygen pressure at least five to six times, the doctor said.

The doctor, who has been attending to Covid patients at GMCH since February 2020, said fluctuations in oxygen pressure had been happening continuously for two weeks. In the day, corrections can be done, unlike at night, the doctor said. “Yesterday, there were 18 patients on ventilators in our ward. When 18 patients de-saturated suddenly, we didn’t know what to do. It was just two of us residents in the ward.”

The doctor also claimed that calls were made to the central oxygen panel number of the hospital, but went unanswered.

Shruti Chaturvedi, who filed a PIL in the High Court over Covid management and is a Covid volunteer, said after she was alerted about the situation at 1 am, she spent the night coordinating with doctors at GMCH and government officials. On Thursday night, Chaturvedi tweeted about oxygen levels falling again in GMCH wards, though the situation was soon rectified.

Informing the High Court about the 15 more deaths due to oxygen issues at GMCH, the state government again said the problem was that tractors hauled trolleys of oxygen cylinders from Scoop Industries, located 15 km away from the hospital, and that increasing the supply was difficult.

Justices M S Sonak and Nitin Sambre said, “On our query as to why the deaths have taken place last night, we were explained that there were logistical issues involved in manoeuvring the tractor which carries the trolleys of oxygen and in connecting the cylinders to the manifold (a group of large gas cylinders). We were explained that during this process there was some interruption, which resulted in a fall of pressure in the supply lines of oxygen to patients. It was pointed out that it is basically on account of these factors some casualties may have taken place.”

The Bench said, “… we are quite pained that such logistical issues should give rise to such serious consequences to Covid victims. We expect the state administration to find ways and means to overcome these logistical issues so that precious life is not lost.”

Advocate General Devidas 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 Thursday 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 May 17.

The court asked the Health Secretary to submit a status report by 6 pm Friday, saying that it will hear the matter again Saturday if the reply was not satisfactory.

PTI reported that Goa had sought intervention of the Centre to ensure that it got its daily quota of 11 MT of liquid oxygen from Kolhapur in Maharashtra, which comprises 40% of its existing 26 MT allocation. It said that instead of 110 tonnes between May 1 and 10, it had got only 66.74 tonnes from Kolhapur. “We should be given 22 tonne/day in place of 11 MT for at least a week to make up for the shortfall to stabilise the situation till the time our active cases decline,” a letter sent by the state on May 12 says.

Goa had 32,791 active cases as of Thursday.



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