Updated: May 16, 2021 7:31:23 am
Three days after the Bombay High Court in Goa observed that the situation was “quite grim” at Goa Medical College and Hospital (GMCH), with oxygen issues reported behind the death of Covid-19 patients, its Medical Superintendent and acting Dean S M Bandekar Saturday said there cannot be a correlation between the drop in oxygen supply in the Covid wards and deaths of patients.
Health Minister Vishwajit Rane, who had first highlighted the deaths, also said Saturday “you cannot co-relate a particular death to a particular situation”.
This was hours after GMCH saw eight more deaths between 2 am 6 am, the time during which most oxygen-related deaths are said to have occurred at the hospital. Bandekar concurred that eight Covid-19 patients had died during these hours on Saturday morning, but said he did not believe the hospital saw more deaths in this period, as suggested over the last four days, than at other times.
Bandekar was addressing a press conference along with Chief Minister Pramod Sawant and Rane, the first by the two BJP ministers since the GMCH crisis surfaced. The first to highlight the deaths happening at GMCH, Rane had said that the 26 who had died at the hospital between May 10-11 night could have passed away owing to oxygen issues. On two nights after that, 15 and 13 deaths were reported due to oxygen fluctuations. The state government had on May 13 told the High Court that 15 deaths had taken place at GMCH between 2 am and 6 am due to drop in oxygen supply.
The Goa Association of Resident Doctors had also warned the authorities about deaths due to oxygen problems on May 5.
At the press conference Saturday, Sawant and Rane directed all questions regarding the deaths at GMCH to Bandekar, calling him a “technical expert” who could offer a “scientific” explanation.
Bandekar, on his part, said, “We cannot put this as a direct answer. People who come to GMCH are all referred cases because we are a tertiary health centre. Their criticality is high and most of the patients die because of Covid pneumonia, where oxygen is part of the treatment. We cannot directly say that this is the reason why they have died. If you see their CT severity scores, they were all more than 20. In the first wave, it (the CT severity score) was always below 10.”
He also pointed out that GMCH currently had 160 critical patients on ventilators. “We cannot have this, singled-out attitude that (deaths) are because of this (oxygen drop).”
In his affidavit to the High Court on May 12, Bandekar had stated, “At times there has been a problem with the supply of these trolleys (carrying oxygen cylinders) and loose cylinders as a result of which there have been instances of a drop in supply of oxygen… which has resulted in casualties.”
Rane, who had earlier suggested that the High Court inquire into the matter, said Saturday, “Like the Dean just mentioned, you cannot correlate a particular death to a particular situation. There may be issues and we’re tackling all the issues.”
Asked about Goa Forward Party president Vijai Sardesai’s claim that 75 people had died at GMCH in four days due to drop in oxygen supply, Rane said: “I would like to appeal to the Opposition to make positive suggestions, come up with solutions rather than just criticising and picking faults with the government.”
Asked if the “differences” between him and Sawant — the two BJP ministers have had conflicting views over Covid management — had cost patients at GMCH their lives, Rane said he did not want to comment. Separately, he told The Sunday Express, “This is a democracy. I have my reasons for having my views and someone else may have their reasons for their views.”
The Health Minister said, “Our doctors are working round the clock, there may have been some technical glitches but we are working 24X7 to resolve them.”
Earlier Saturday, Sawant and Rane together inspected the commissioning of a 20,000-litre Liquid Medical Oxygen tank at GMCH. Health Secretary Ravi Dhawan said that the tank would ensure direct oxygen supply to patients at GMCH. “The present system of supplying oxygen through trolleys will become just a redundancy, just a back-up, hopefully never to be used.”
The system under which trolleys hauled cylinders from a supplier to GMCH may now be done away with. Among the “logistical issues” cited by the authorities before the High Court was lack of trained drivers for tractors towing the trolleys, resulting in delays in oxygen.
Sawant announced that the government had decided to take over 50% admissions in 21 private hospitals in the state, in what Rane called “a bold move”. “Management will be done by the hospital itself but we will take over the admissions,” the CM said.
Sawant said that 350 Covid patients had been shifted to a new super-speciality block at GMCH, which was comissioned last week. Praising “the guidance of” the CM, Rane said, “It is the largest hospital built under PMSSY (Prime Minister Swasthya Suraksha Yojana).”
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