Oxygen shortage claims 13 more lives in Goa; 75 dead in 4 days  

Thirteen more COVID patients died at Goa’s apex government hospital, the Goa Medical College, in the early hours of Friday owing to oxygen mismanagement

Representative Image (Photo Courtesy: IANS)
Representative Image (Photo Courtesy: IANS)
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IANS

Thirteen Covid patients died at Goa's apex government hospital, the Goa Medical College, in the early hours of Friday owing to oxygen mismanagement, even as the death toll of patients who died between 2 am and 6 am at the premier facility in the last four days reached 75.

Amid the spate of deaths, Goa Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari on Friday conducted a review of the Covid-19 situation in a virtual conference with Chief Minister Pramod Sawant and Health Minister Vishwajit Rane.

"Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari today reviewed the Covid-19 situation in Goa during his meeting with Chief Minister Pramod Sawant and Health Minister Vishwajeet Rane held online," according the Governor's official Twitter handle.

In all, 61 Covid patients died in Goa's hospitals on Friday, taking the total death toll due to Covid-related complications to 1,998. Goa currently has 32,387 active cases, which amounts to more than 2 per cent of the state's entire population of approximately 15 lakh.

Videos of chaos at the numerous wards of the Medical College have gone viral, with patients and relatives pleading for assistance as well as uploading emotive snapshots of helplessness and lack of hygiene in the health facility.

A video shot at Ward No. 145 shows patients sleeping on mattresses with oxygen monitors beeping in the background and the dull echo of family members patting patients in a bid to reassure them. The video also shows debris of used food packets and other waste piled at a corner of the ward, spilling out of garbage bags.

In another video shot at Ward No. 147, a patient's relative complains of a procession of six to seven deaths at the hospital ward due to oxygen shortage. "The government says there is enough oxygen supply, but it is playing with the lives of people".

Opposition MLA of the Goa Forward Party, Vijai Sardesai, has called the four hours between 2 am and 6 am -- when most of the deaths occurred -- as the "dark hour" of death.

"In all, 75 people have died at the dark hour between 2 am and 6 am in the dead of the night in the last four days," Sardesai said.

While 26 persons died on May 10 during the four hours, on May 11, 21 persons died due to lack of oxygen.

Despite a grilling of government agencies by the Bombay High Court, which is hearing a bunch of public interest litigations related to poor Covid management and shoddy oxygen management at the premier hospital, the spate of deaths did not stop, with 15 persons dying on May 12 and 13 dying in the early hours of Friday.

"There is a complete collapse of governance. In spite of HC intervention, deaths are happening at this dark hour. Rather than the government, the HC should rule Goa because the government is doing nothing other than photo ops and filing cases against those who expose them," Sardesai said.

Leader of Opposition Digambar Kamat on Friday demanded that the state government should compensate the relatives of the deceased Covid patients, saying the deaths occurred due to government blunder.

"With @BJP4Goa Government clearly admitting of Deaths in GMC due to gross negligence, @goacm must own the responsibility & immediately announce substantial compensation to the families of those patients who were murdered by Government apathy & blunder. @INCGoa #OxygenCrisis," Kamat tweeted.

The Bombay High Court has also expressed unhappiness over the shoddy oxygen management practices at the hospital and has recommended a slew of measures to streamline the oxygen delivery systems at the medical college.

Earlier on Friday, a team of Youth Congress officials, who have been assisting the patients with refilling of oxygen cylinders, also visited the Covid ward of the medical college.

"If the high court has to intervene in every matter, why do you need a government? We had demanded RT-PCR tests to be made mandatory because of increasing tourist footfalls in Goa, especially from Maharashtra which was facing a huge spike," Youth Congress president Varad Mardolkar said.

"This oxygen issue has been around for 14-15 days. But the government could not fix it. It took the high court to intervene and take some steps to address the crisis," Mardolkar said.

The tragedy also comes against the backdrop of a feud between Chief Minister Pramod Sawant and Health Minister Vishwajit Rane over the control of the state's Covid management mechanism.

On Thursday, state BJP president Sadanand Shet Tanavade had told reporters that Union Home Minister Amit Shah spoke to both the CM and the HM, and the "misunderstanding" has been addressed.

Meanwhile, the Goa government has formed a committee headed by IIT-Goa Director B.K. Mishra to streamline oxygen supply to the facility. The committee is expected to submit a report within three days.

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