PANAJI: The dark hour between 2am and 6am claimed eight more lives on Saturday due to oxygen fluctuations at
Goa Medical College
, taking the toll of Covid patients dead due to the oxygen crisis at the premier government hospital to 83 during the past five days.
doctors were reluctant to directly attribute the deaths to erratic oxygen supply, nurses, relatives of patients and volunteers confirmed to TOI that transitory dips in oxygen were noticed throughout the night.
“We cannot directly say that this is the reason (interruption in oxygen supply) why they died. Most of the patients die because of Covid pneumonia and oxygen is an important part of the treatment,” said GMC dean Dr S M Bandekar.
A log of dips in the central oxygen pipeline maintained by GMC showed that 13 wards reported a drop in oxygen supply, with the longest drop being recorded in ward 143 for a duration of 90 minutes. However, the availability of oxygen cylinders helped prevent a higher number of casualties, said medical staff.
Among the few who did not make it through the night was a 53-year-old man, the sole breadwinner of the family, who lost his life around 2:50am. “I got a call around 1:30am saying that the oxygen saturation was dropping and was at 60%. At that point I lost hope,” said a family friend.
“At 4am, my aunt died due to Covid at GMC. The previous night (Friday) something went wrong with the oxygen,” said another individual, who also lost his cousin a few days earlier.
Bandekar said all critically ill Covid patients are referred to GMC and 160 of them are hooked on to ventilators. “But how to prove that interruptions have caused those deaths?” he said.
Health minister Vishwajit Rane said the dip in oxygen supply could not be correlated with deaths. But on Tuesday, Rane himself had said as many as 26 patients had died due to oxygen shortage at GMC.
He had said many more patients had died earlier too, and the high court should conduct a probe to find out why it was happening.
The daily medical bulletin on Saturday said 58 Covid patients lost their lives over the past 24 hours with 33 of the deaths occurring at GMC itself. The deaths also took Goa’s Covid fatality count across the 2,000-mark, with doctors saying that this may still not be the peak of the second wave for Goa.
Goa’s positivity rate, which remains the highest among states in the country at 42%, only serves to back up the fears of the doctors. The Union territory of
, at 42.3%, is just a sliver above Goa.
After a strong rebuke from the Goa bench of the Bombay high court, the state government appears to have finally grasped the severity of the situation and has rushed through the installation of a 23,000-litre liquid medical oxygen plant, which has been pushed into trial runs within 48 hours of work commencing.
On Wednesday, hearing a slew of PILs on Covid management and oxygen crisis, a bench of Justices Mahesh Sonak and Nitin Sambre had directed the state government to ensure that no more lives were lost due to the oxygen crisis.
Goa Forward Party, which is one of the petitioners before the high court, also continued to keep the pressure on the BJP government.
“Midnight murders continue. Another eight Goans have lost their lives leaving Goa broken and in despair. This serial killing of Goans has to stop. The government of Goa and chief minister
must answer for this disaster,” said
“The opposition can make tall claims, but I appeal to them to tell us if they have any suggestions to deal with the situation. This is not a simple situation to deal with,” said Rane.
To try and reduce the load on GMC, health authorities have shifted 350 Covid-19 patients to the super speciality block, which has an independent medical oxygen plant. GMC relies on a tractor trolley system for oxygen replenishment, which is slow and cumbersome. Doctors said that the transitory dips in oxygen are because of the switch-over of the tractor trolleys.
“I called around 3am and the on-duty ward staff said the non-invasive ventilators were beeping to show that the oxygen supply was dropping. However, they said they have backup cylinders and there were police personnel who would escalate the issue to authorities if the number of backup cylinders was below three. It wasn’t as bad as the earlier days,” said Conrad Barreto, one of the volunteers who have been helping out during the pandemic.
A reduction to single digits in the number of Covid-19 deaths in the dark hour offered a silver lining for the state. At 3,512, recoveries outnumbered fresh cases and offered doctors and stakeholders some respite. The government officials said that the “statewide curfew” may be starting to show results.