In a horrific series of events at Goa Medical College and Hospital (GMCH), the largest COVID-19 hospital in Goa, 83 people lost their lives in a span of five days from 10th May to 15th May due to low oxygen supply in the hospital.
All the deaths took place between 12 AM and 4 AM. The alleged cause is lack of oxygen supply. The main issue behind the oxygen fluctuation is the drop in the central pipeline pressure. GMCH relies on a tractor trolley system for oxygen replenishment. Oxygen cylinders are loaded in trolleys and are brought to the hospital in tractors. These continuous rounds were getting difficult to maneuver day by day and is also a slow and cumbersome process. Doctors said that the transitory dips in oxygen are because of the switch over of the tractor trolleys.
A centralised pipeline, which supplies continuous oxygen to the patients, is very old and poorly managed.
According to Devansh Cholera, a COVID-19 volunteer at GMCH, who stayed at the hospital on the nights of 10th, 11th and 12th May, “the main issue is low pressure in the oxygen pipeline. When the pressure dips at night, they should have oxygen cylinders or concentrators for the patients. In a ward of 48 patients, they should at least have 24 cylinders for the most vulnerable. But there were only 6 cylinders for 24 critical patients. There are patients across different vulnerabilities. Some can manage without oxygen for about 10-15 minutes, or lower pressure of oxygen supply, but there are others who cannot. So when the oxygen pressure dips, after 3-4 minutes there are patients who will instantly start gasping for air. And then the damage to the lungs is imminent and they are not able to recover from the process.”
Goa reported 43 deaths on 16th May, out of which 30 deaths occurred in the medical college itself. There is still no clarity on these 30 deaths if they were still because of shortage of oxygen or COVID-19 complications. The Goa government has been silent about the death rate.
After a rebuke from the Goa bench of Bombay High Court, the Goa government sought to install 23,000-litre liquid medical oxygen plant which had been pushed into trial runs within 48 hours of work commencing to avoid more loss of life due to negligence.
This was commissioned on Saturday, 5 days after the deaths at GMCH persisted. Meanwhile, Health minister Vishwajit Rane on Sunday said the oxygen supply at the GMCH was getting streamlined following commissioning of a new tank of the life-saving gas at the facility.
While the situation at GMCH has gotten slightly better, more pressing are the issues at South Goa district hospital.
“While everyone is talking about the situation at GMC, I’d like to point out that South Goa district hospital is even worse off. Though we have our own oxygen concentrator plant, when it began to leak we were suddenly given instructions in the middle of the night to decrease all the central line oxygen pressures for the patients. Several died as a direct consequence,” the doctor, who did not want to be named, charged while speaking to a Goemkarponn reporter.
Goa unit of the Congress party said it will file a criminal case against CM Pramod Sawant and Health Minister Vishwajit Rane over these deaths.
The deaths of patients due to insufficient supply of oxygen is nothing but cold-blooded murder of COVID-19 patients by CM Sawant and Health Minister Rane,” said Goa Congress chief Girish Chodankar.
Goa has reported 1562 new infections, and 53 COVID-19 related casualties on Monday. The positivity rate rose to a concerning 37%.