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Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Second wave: 13 more die, Goa hospital says it has ‘fixed’ its oxygen issues

Goa Forward Party President Vijai Sardesai said, “Seventy-five people have died on four consecutive days. On the night of May 11, 21 people died, on the night of May 12, 15 people died, and last night, 13 people died."

By: Express News Service | Panaji |
Updated: May 15, 2021 8:36:42 am
From inside a Covid ward at GMCH, Goa’s largest facility for coronavirus. (Express photo)

Goa Medical College and Hospital (GMCH) that has seen deaths on successive days due to oxygen issues saw 13 more casualties during the early hours of Friday. While the opposition Goa Forward Party blamed these too on inadequate oxygen supply, the hospital said the reasons for the deaths were yet to be ascertained.

Claiming to have details regarding the latest deaths, Goa Forward Party President Vijai Sardesai said, “Seventy-five people have died on four consecutive days. On the night of May 11, 21 people died, on the night of May 12, 15 people died, and last night, 13 people died.” He said the deaths had again happened during “the dark hours” at GMCH — 2 am to 6 am, when the hospital has been seeing oxygen supply fluctuations.GMCH PRO Dr Mahesh Kambli said that while 13 people had died at the hospital early Friday, it was not known yet if the deaths were caused by a drop in oxygen supply. He said that nine deaths had taken place between 2 am and 6 am, and four between 6 am and 8 am.

Dr Pratik Savant, president of the Goa Association of Resident Doctors, who has been posted on Covid duty at GMCH since last year, said he had received information from colleagues that there was a drop in pressure in the central oxygen supply for about 20 minutes Friday morning, but there was no drop in saturation levels of patients at the time.

In a status report submitted to the High Court of Bombay at Goa on Friday evening, Health Secretary Ravi Dhawan stated that he and Urban Development Secretary Dr Tariq Thomas were personally present from 10 pm on Thursday to 5:45 am on Friday at the hospital to monitor the situation at the site of the manifold (a group of large cylinders). “No complaints were received by us during this period about a drop in pressure,” he stated in his report.

The BJP government also informed the High Court that it had arranged for eight “trained and experienced tractor drivers” from Kolhapur in Maharashtra, plus two high-powered tractors, to ferry the oxygen trolleys between the oxygen supplier, Scoop Industries, and GMCH, separated by 15 km. Each trolley, carrying 48 oxygen cylinders, is towed by an agricultural tractor.

The Health Secretary reiterated that the Centre had, in an order issued Thursday, enhanced Goa’s daily allocation of Liquid Medical Oxygen (LMO) from 26 MT to 46 MT.

An LMO storage tank had been transported to the GMCH manifold site and is expected to be operational by May 17, Dhawan said. Chief Minister Pramod Sawant tweeted about work on installation of a 20,000-litres medical oxygen tank at GMCH.

Besides, the Health Secretary stated in his report, two Dura cylinders (a kind of low-pressure cylinder) of oxygen were installed at the hospital, and their performance had been observed over 12 hours of high demand at night. “It may be concluded that while Dura cylinders were useful in helping prolong the duration of the oxygen supply from a given trolley, they do not act as an alternative,” the Secretary submitted. They, however, help reduce the changeover time, he said.

The Health Secretary said the state had received 323 oxygen concentrators, of which 263 were deployed at GMCH.

Opposition parties demanded that the BJP government pay compensation to families of the Covid-19 patients who died at GMCH due to oxygen issues. “Chamrajnagar (in Karnataka) saw one incident (of oxygen shortage), but here it’s happening with striking regularity,” said Sardesai, with his party filing a criminal complaint against the CM, Chief Secretary Parimal Rai and Swetika Sanchan, the nodal officer for management of oxygen, alleging culpable homicide not amounting to murder and criminal conspiracy.

Former Goa CM and senior Congress leader Digambar Kamat said, “With the BJP government in Goa clearly admitting to deaths at GMCH due to gross negligence, the CM must own responsibility and immediately announce substantial compensation to the families of those murdered by government apathy and blunder.”

Goa’s largest Covid facility, GMCH accounted for 39 of its 61 Covid deaths Friday, with 14 reported from South Goa District Hospital. The state saw 2,455 new cases and 2,960 recoveries, putting its count of active cases at 32,387. The positivity rate continues to be worrying, at 36%.

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