15 more patients die at Goa hospital; relatives blame disruption in oxygen supply
Two days after 26 patients lost their lives at Goa’s premier government-run hospital due to lack of oxygen between 2am and 6am, the Pramod Sawant government on Thursday told the Bombay high court that 15 more patients died on Thursday morning also but tried to convince the court that all these deaths could not be attributed to the disruption in oxygen supply.
The judges, who had reprimanded the state government for not ensuring steady oxygen supply just a day earlier, however, didn’t buy the hospital’s defence on Thursday.
“Statistics show that the deaths are happening due to a lack of oxygen. Do not try to deny the fact,” the high court’s Goa bench of justices MS Sonak and Nitin Jambre told the state’s top law officer, advocate general Devidas Pangam.
“We are aware that the issue is not sorted out yet,” the bench said.
The 15 deaths at the Goa Medical College and Hospital come just two days after 26 people lost their lives due to shortage of oxygen at the same hospital, prompting the judges to order the Pramod Sawant government to drop everything and ensure that there are no deaths “at least one night”.
At a high court’s hearing on Thursday morning, the Goa Medical College acknowledged that 15 more deaths had taken place between 2am and 6am but insisted that not all of them died because of disruption in oxygen supply as was being claimed by the petitioners.
Shruti Chaturvedi, who has set up the Goa Covid network of volunteers and is one of the petitioners, had earlier tweeted news about the 15 deaths.
“Despite raising SOSes, police and health dept officials reaching GMC in the wee hours of the night after the alarm of oxygen fluctuations in the central pipeline was raised, 15 people died last night. Again.”
Relatives of patients did raise an alarm after the oxygen pressure began to drop overnight and health department officials and the police reached the hospital to help. But it was several hours before anyone was able to fix the problem and ensure a steady supply of oxygen.
The medical college’s dean Dr Shivanand Bandekar acknowledged that the oxygen pressure had dropped during the night but claimed that not all the deaths could be attributed to it.
He said critical patients would be shifted out of wards that are receiving oxygen at low pressure to a newly-commissioned block where the oxygen supply is steady.
The deaths at the state-run hospital due to oxygen supply have come as a major embarrassment to the Pramod Sawant government, which has also been roundly criticised by opposition parties, civil society groups and at least one ruling party MLA for not doing enough.
On Wednesday, the high court also reminded the state government that it was its duty to ensure that people didn’t die due to its inability to supply oxygen. “This duty can neither be avoided by pleading helplessness nor by putting forth logistical difficulties in sourcing and supplying oxygen,” the high court said.
On Wednesday, the Goa medical college dean had spoken about how disruption in oxygen supply could claim lives and lead to organ failure, leading to deaths long after the oxygen supply is restored.
“Reduced oxygen saturation lasting for a significant duration causes tissue hypoxia and irreversible tissue damage. This is worse in the presence of comorbidities and old age. The death following such hypoxemia and organ hypoxia may be immediate, or most of the time after some period of time,” he said on Wednesday.
Relatives of patients said the oxygen pressure had been running low for several days. One of them, Christine Fernandes said it was scary. She got her sister an extra cylinder in case the hospital runs out of oxygen again.
“My sister Laura Fernandes is admitted in GMC hospital, Goa with severe pneumonia. She was admitted on May 7. She is fighting for her life, while her 2 young kids are waiting for their mother to come home. The first few nights at the hospital were frightening as the oxygen ran low at night and patients were dying during this time,” Fernandes told Hindustan Times..
“We got a cylinder (from a private supplier) on May 11 (after 26 patients died due to lack of oxygen), but no doctor was willing to help fix it. My brother-in-law went home on the 12th morning, got his tools and fixed the cylinder all by himself,” she added.