26 deaths at Goa Medical College in 4 hours. Health minister pushes for HC probe

ByGerard de Souza
May 11, 2021 11:02 PM IST

Goa chief minister Pramod Sawant said there was ‘some mismanagement’ at the Goa Medical College and Hospital in maintaining continuous oxygen supply for the Covid patients via cylinders

Twenty six patients being treated for Covid 19 at the Goa Medical College and Hospital died between 2am and 6am on Tuesday, Goa health minister Vishwajit Rane said on Tuesday, pushing for a probe by the high court into the early morning deaths at the state-run hospital.

Goa chief minister Pramod Sawant visited the Goa Medical College and Hospital after 26 patients died overnight, reportedly due to disruption in oxygen supply (Twitter/@DrPramodPSawant)
Goa chief minister Pramod Sawant visited the Goa Medical College and Hospital after 26 patients died overnight, reportedly due to disruption in oxygen supply (Twitter/@DrPramodPSawant)

“I think there needs to be an inquiry into this (deaths)... it would also be fine if the high court inquires into this,” Vishwajit Rane told reporters hours after chief minister Pramod Sawant visited the hospital to assess the gaps. The government needs the high court’s approval before a probe by a judge, sitting or retired, can get off the ground.

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“We are facing a shortage of oxygen. Yesterday we required 1,200 cylinders of oxygen but we got only 400. Because of interrupted oxygen supply, I think somewhere between the hours 2am to 6am, there are a lot of deaths happening. Even today between 2am to 6am, there were around 26 deaths,” Rane said.

Goa recorded 75 deaths of Covid-19 patients on Tuesday, the highest single day toll since the onset of pandemic. The state also recorded 3,124 new cases, at a positivity rate of 37%, the health department said.

Goa chief minister Pramod Sawant said the logistics of maintaining a steady supply of cylinders rather than availability of medical oxygen appeared to be the primary problem. Sawant, who interacted with doctors, health workers and patients, promised to streamline the logistical issues involved in not just getting the cylinders, but also replacing them before they run out of oxygen.

The hospital, which is dealing with patients up to three times its capacity, treats many of its patients lying on stretchers or on the floor because there aren’t enough beds. While patients on beds are supplied oxygen using the central piping system, the others are given oxygen supply through cylinders that need to be replaced and refilled.

This is where there is a problem. If the cylinder is not replaced on time, it results in a drop in oxygen level of patients and a deterioration in their condition. On Monday night, SOS messages were sent out claiming that the oxygen cylinders were running low and there was no one to change them.

Sawant said there was “some mismanagement”.

“Cylinders have to be taken to the wards, the housekeeping. There needs to be a person in charge (of oxygen cylinders) for each ward. This cannot be left to nurses. Oxygen is there, but it doesn’t reach the wards/patients. We will streamline the process of ensuring that the supply is adequate. We will allocate the work properly,” Sawant said.

“We have oxygen, but if the cylinder is not where it needs to be then it might as well be said that there is no oxygen,” Sawant added.

Congress leader Sunil Kawthankar said the government wasn’t serious enough about the challenge at hand.

“Since 12.30 am, people in GMC Ward 147 were told oxygen would arrive in 10 minutes only to arrive past 4am. That too, just four cylinders. How are patients supposed to survive those several hours in between? Surprised how even after so many deaths health authorities are okay with ‘favourite oxygen suppliers’ slow mode of transportation using tractor trolleys and how still no arrangements for adequate oxygen is made. Are the lives of people so cheap? That the authorities can sleep over calmly when innocent lives are lost,” Sunil Kawthankar, a Congress leader, who has also been coordinating relief efforts, said.

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