Cannot correlate deaths to oxygen shortage: Goa hospital
Days after Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant said the supply of medical oxygen in the state has "caused some issues," Goa Medical College and Hospital (GMCH) Dean SM Bandekar said there cannot be a correlation between the drop in oxygen supply in COVID-19 wards and deaths of patients. The GMCH reported deaths of eight more patients between 2 am and 6 am on Saturday.
The Dean pointed out that GMCH is a tertiary health center treating critical patients. "Most patients die because of COVID-19 pneumonia, where oxygen is part of the treatment. We cannot directly say that this is the reason why they've died. If you see their CT severity scores, they were all more than 20. In the first wave, it was always below 10," he added.
Bandekar added that GMCH currently had 160 critical patients on ventilators. "We cannot have this singled-out attitude that (the deaths) are because of (an oxygen drop)," he said. On May 12, however, Bandekar told the Goa bench of the Bombay High Court, "At times, there has been a problem with the supply of trolleys (carrying oxygen cylinders) and loose cylinders...which has resulted in casualties."
With eight more COVID-19 deaths reported between 2 am and 6 am on Saturday, the total death toll since earlier this week due to lack of oxygen at the premier government hospital now stands at 83, reported The Times of India. Nurses, family members of the patients, and volunteers said that fluctuation in the oxygen levels of COVID-19 patients was noticed throughout the night.
Reportedly, a log of dips in the central oxygen pipeline maintained by the hospital revealed that 13 wards reported a drop in oxygen supply, with the longest drop being recorded in ward 143 for 90 minutes. However, doctors were reluctant to directly link the deaths to erratic oxygen supply. Staffers said the availability of oxygen cylinders prevented a higher number of casualties.
Bandekar was addressing a press conference with the CM and Health Minister Vishwajit Rane, who directed all questions about GMCH to the former, calling him a "technical expert" who could offer a "scientific" explanation. Rane said "you cannot correlate a particular death to a particular situation," in sharp contrast to his earlier statements when he said that 26 patients died due to oxygen shortage.
Referring to the deaths as "midnight murders," Goa Forward Party President Vijai Sardesai said the "serial killings" should stop and the state government must answer for this "disaster." However, Rane was quick to retort and said, "I would like to appeal to the Opposition to make positive suggestions, come up with solutions, rather than just criticizing and picking faults with the government."
Sawant and Rane also inspected the 20,000-liter liquid medical oxygen tank at GMCH, following the HC's directives to ensure no more lives were lost due to the oxygen crisis. The CM said 350 COVID-19 patients were shifted to the new super-specialty block. "The present system of supplying oxygen through trolleys will become a redundancy, just a back-up, hopefully never to be used," Rane said.
According to the state health bulletin, 58 COVID-19 patients died on Saturday, with 33 of the deaths being reported from GMCH alone. The toll took Goa's death toll beyond the 2,000-mark. Doctors have said this may still not be the peak of the second wave for the state. Goa's positivity rate remains the highest among states in the country at 42%.