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Oxygen crisis continues to wreak havoc at Goa Medical College (GMC), claiming eight more lives on Saturday.

The total death toll since earlier this week due to lack of oxygen at the premier government hospital now stands at 83, The Times of India reported.

Most of these deaths occurred during the ‘dark hour’ between 2 am and 6 am.

The doctors at the hospital, however, didn’t attribute the deaths to the oxygen crisis, saying most of the patients died due to Covid pneumonia.

GMC dean Dr S.M. Bandekar said the deaths couldn’t be directly attributed to interruption in oxygen supply as most patients died because of Covid pneumonia, which requires oxygen for treatment.

But nurses, family members of patients said that oxygen fluctuation was noticed throughout the night.

A log of dips in the central oxygen pipeline maintained by the hospital revealed that as many as 13 wards reported a drop in oxygen supply, with the longest drop being recorded in ward 143 for 90 minutes.

But availability of oxygen cylinders helped prevent a higher number of casualties, according to medical staff.

The ones who couldn’t make it

Among those who died at the hospital was a 53-year-old man, the sole bread-winner of his family, who breathed his last at around 2.50 am.

A family friend said he got a call at around 1:30 am, saying that the oxygen saturation was dropping and was at 60%. “At that point I lost hope,” he added.

Another individual said he lost his aunt at 4 am on Saturday, adding that the previous night, “something went wrong with the oxygen”.

Bandekar said all critical patients are referred to GMC and 160 of them are on ventilator support. “But how to prove that interruptions have caused those deaths?” he said.

Health minister Vishwajit Rane echoed similar sentiments. He said the fall in oxygen supply could not be correlated with deaths.

This was, however, in sharp contrast to his statements on Tuesday when he had that 26 patients had died due to oxygen shortage at GMC. He had said many more patients had died earlier too, and the high court should conduct a probe in the matter.

Goa’s grim situation

According to the state health bulletin on Saturday, 58 Covid-19 patients lost their lives in the past 24 hours, with 33 of the deaths being reported from GMC alone.

The toll took the coastal state’s Covid fatality count across the 2,000-mark. Doctors said this may still not be the peak of the second wave for Goa.

The state’s positivity rate, which remains the highest among states in the country at 42%, only compounds the fears of the doctors.

Following a rap from the Goa bench of the Bombay High Court, the state government had rushed through the installation of a 23,000-litre liquid medical oxygen plant, which has been pushed into trial runs within 48 hours of work commencing.

On Wednesday, a bench of Justices Mahesh Sonak and Nitin Sambre had directed the government to ensure that no more lives were lost due to the oxygen crisis.

To reduce the load on GMC, 350 Covid-19 patients were shifted to the super speciality block, which has an independent medical oxygen plant.

GMC relies on a tractor trolley system for oxygen replenishment, which is slow and difficult.

Doctors said that the transitory dips in oxygen are because of the switch-over of the tractor trolleys.

However, the situation seems to be improving a bit.

Conrad Barreto, one of the volunteers who have been helping out during the pandemic, said he called around 3 am and the on-duty ward staff said the noninvasive ventilators were beeping to show that the oxygen supply was dropping.

“However, they said they have backup cylinders and there were police personnel who would escalate the issue to authorities if the number of backup cylinders was below three. It wasn’t as bad as the earlier days,” he added.

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