Seventy-five patients have died at the Goa Medical College and Hospital – the state’s biggest Covid facility – in the past four days, because of “logistic issues” in the supply of medical oxygen.
Thirteen died on Friday, according to former Deputy Chief Minister Vijai Sardesai, whose Goa Forward Party was allied with the ruling BJP before quitting last month over “anti-Goan policies”.
On Thursday 15 deaths were recorded. The day before – Wednesday – 21 people died, and on Tuesday 26 people lost their lives. All 75 deaths, Mr Sardesai told NDTV, took place in the “dark hours, which is the time from 1 am to 6 am…”
The opposition has reacted strongly, with the Goa Forward Party on Friday filing a police complaint against Chief Minister Pramod Sawant, and senior officials.
According to news agency ANI, the complaint alleges gross and reckless acts of negligence and deliberate omission of duty – referring to the interruption of oxygen supply – that led to the deaths of several Covid patients.
Goa Congress is set to file a criminal case claiming “cold-blooded murder by the Chief Minister and Health Minister”. The party has slammed the “…clear-cut admission by Goa’s BJP government before the High Court of Bombay at Goa that 41 deaths occurred due to shortage of oxygen…”
On Thursday the Goa bench of the High Court was told “logistic issues involved in maneuvering tractors which carry oxygen, and (the) connecting of cylinders to manifold” had led to “fall of pressure in supply lines of oxygen to patients”. “It was pointed out it is basically on account of these factors some casualties may have taken place,” the court summed up.
The bench – hearing petitions on the handling of the pandemic – slammed the state, saying Covid patients could not be allowed to die because of “logistics”.
It has directed hospital and state authorities to file a status report by 7 pm today; this is to include reports on the supply of oxygen and the availability of tanks, concentrators and drivers.
The Goa Chief Minister, who visited GMCH on Tuesday after the first set of deaths, had said the gap between the “availability of medical oxygen and its supply might have caused some issues“.
He also stressed that there was no scarcity of oxygen supply in the state.
However, also on Tuesday, Goa Health Minister Vishwajit Rane told reporters there was a shortfall in supply of medical oxygen as of the previous day, i.e., Monday, and sought a probe by the High Court.
The Goa Congress has also claimed a feud between the Mr Sawant and Mr Rane – over “commission for the purchase of crores of ‘ivermectin’ tablets, which runs into crores of rupees”.
‘Ivermectin’ is an antiparasitic drug – not approved by the WHO – that Mr Rane this week said would be offered to all Goan adults as “preventive” treatment for COVID-19.
Meanwhile, the Chief Minister’s assertion – that there is no problem with oxygen supply – also contradicts a Tuesday letter from Goa’s Principal Secretary, PK Goel, to the central government.
According to news agency PTI, in the letter Mr Goel said that between May 1 and 10, the state received only 66.74 metric tonnes of the allocated 110 from Maharashtra’s Kolhapur
Kolhapur supplies around 40 per cent of all medical oxygen to Goa in this crisis.
The Goa Medical College and Hospital is full. There is no place for new patients, and the final few who managed admission have to be content with a spot on the floor.
“We waited eight hours just to get a wheelchair… the next day his oxygen levels were 50-60 and we needed a ventilator, which was not available. Forget that, they don’t even have beds. They put him on the floor,” a family member of a patient, who did not wish to be named, told NDTV.
Goa has the highest positivity rate in the country – 48.1 per cent as of Thursday evening. This means every second COVID-19 test is returning a positive result.
On Friday morning, the state reported 2,491 new cases and 62 deaths in 24 hours, to take its active caseload to nearly 33,000 and total number of deaths to nearly 2,000.
With input from ANI, PTI