“Tourists allowed without RT-PCR report, no SOPs in place, healthcare system not ramped up even after one year — all this led to the COVID crisis in Goa. The way tourism boomed in Goa in the last few months, we saw this coming.”Shruti Chaturvedi, Goa based Entrepreneur and COVID Volunteer
From 10 May to 13 May 2021, 75+ COVID patients died at Goa Medical College and Hospital (GMCH), which is the largest COVID hospital in the state.
All the deaths took place between 12 am and 4 am, and it is alleged that the cause is lack of oxygen supply. The main issue behind the oxygen fluctuation is the drop in the central pipeline pressure.
Shruti Chaturvedi, one of the volunteers who flagged the shortage of oxygen at GMCH spoke to The Quint about the COVID situation in Goa. She has also filed a petition in the High Court over COVID management in the state.
‘Emergency Numbers Were Switched off’
On the night of Wednesday, 12 May, Shruti received the first message about the oxygen shortage at GMCH. After confirming with medical staff present at the hospital’s ward 147, she tweeted an SOS message about the oxygen situation at the hospital.
“The doctor at the ward told me that the emergency numbers and the numbers of the main oxygen supplier, Scoop were switched off. The doctors were panicking because they did not have enough cylinders and the patients on ventilators could suffer permanent brain damage due to the fluctuation.”Shruti Chaturvedi, Goa based Entrepreneur and COVID Volunteer
“When the same issue persisted on the fifth consecutive night, we knew that we will need proof that officials can’t deny and send help. For that I got videos of the oxygen machines beeping, showing fluctuation and uploaded them on social media.”Shruti Chaturvedi, Goa based Entrepreneur and COVID Volunteer
An hour later, police and officials from the health ministry reached the hospital. By this time several other wards were facing the same issue.
Volunteers were sending SOS messages on social media, which went unnoticed for days. Despite health department officials and police being present at GMC during the fluctuation in the oxygen supply, 13 more patients died on Thursday, 13 May.
While the problem persists, health department officials and police are now monitoring the situation and arranging oxygen back up to move patients on cylinders when required.
‘The Only Route To Communicate With the Govt Is Through Court’
With many petitioners now before the court, the government is taking up suggestions like mandatory RT-PCR report, door-to-door vaccination drives and state curfew.
On the fourth day of hearing of the PIL, Bombay High Court in Goa directed the Centre to release oxygen quota at the earliest. After which the Centre allocated 26 MT of oxygen.
Goa government is also installing 20,000 litre of medical oxygen at GMCH. Although the government and the hospital told that all deaths are not due to oxygen shortage but also due to logistics issue, a three-member committee is set up to investigate the oxygen shortage problem.
“If citizen-driven groups can arrange for resources quickly and effectively, it’s mind boggling that government with the best brains and resources can’t. When they say they don’t have enough tractor drivers or they don’t know how to take reverse, it shows incompetence after one year in the pandemic and unpreparedness after inviting tourism from all across the country.”Shruti Chaturvedi, Goa based Entrepreneur & COVID Volunteer
Goa Govt & GMCH: Can’t Attribute The Deaths To Dips In Oxygen Pressure
The Quint has been informed from sources on the ground that oxygen dips in the central pipeline are persistent.
On the night of 15 May, 8-10 more people died at GMCH.
According to a report in TOI, 13 wards recorded a drop in oxygen supply, with the longest drop in ward 143 for 90 minutes.