DIVERTED: If you are wondering where all the oxygen and perhaps even the oxygen concentrators have been disappearing, you have the answer. They are being diverted by Goa’s Chief Minister Pramod Sawant to the Dr Narayan Hospital at Kankavali in Sindhudurg district of south Maharashtra.
By Rajan Narayan
Even as Goans continued to gasp for breath, particularly at the Goa Medical College & Hospital (GMC), Chief Minister Pramod Sawant was supplying oxygen secretly from the Verna Industrial Estate to a private hospital in Sindhudurg set up by senior Maharashtra BJP leader Narayan Rane. This was happening at a time when there was a shortage of oxygen at Goa’s covid hospitals, which were not getting oxygen from the oxygen units at the Verna Industrial Estate..
SHOCKINGLY, Chief Minister Pramod Sawant, whose reluctance to impose security checks initially at the Maharashtra-Goa border, led to the second deadly wave, has been generously offering oxygen to neighbouring Sindhudurg in south Maharashtra. We understand that the gesture was intended to be a dowry gift as his brother-in-law just got married to a girl from Sindhudurg on Saturday, May 8.
In fact, this is why the notification of Goa’s curfew or partial lockdown which was scheduled to be announced at 4pm on Saturday, May 8, was delayed till next day Sunday. There are reports that the CM told the Sindhudurg MLA that he would supply oxygen from the Verna Industrial Estate to the hospital run by the senior BJP MP, Narayan Rane, who thinks he is the King of the Konkan belt in Maharashtra and Goa.
This at a time when on a regular basis the oxygen levels have been fluctuating and falling in the covid wards of the GMC where serious covid patients are under treatment. The oxygen shortfall literally left the patients gasping for breath and eventual death. On Sunday, May 9, at 3am, the bedside monitors in Ward 113 and Ward 145 of Goa Medical College showed that the pressure in the high flow central line had dropped to 0.5 pounds per square inch. On an average a patient in critical condition requires a minimum of 15 litres of oxygen per second. The sharp drop in the oxygen pressure had patients convulsing as their attending relatives sent out messages to volunteer groups and even posted SOS messages on social media. As a result of the sharp drop in the pressure a couple of patients eventually lost their life.
THIS is not an unusual feature but a daily daily occurrence in the GMC covid wards. Despite the claims of both Health Minister Vishwajit Rane and Chief Minister Pramod Sawant that adequate oxygen supply is available in the State, the ground reality is different. Recently, Rotarian good Samaritan Ashley Delaney, who was doing night duty attending to his father-in-law in a ward at the GMC over a period of over three weeks, suddenly discovered that patients in the neighbouring ward were coughing and gasping for breath. Ashley alerted the concerned authority and posted a screen shot of the dire conditions in Ward 145. Fortunately, somebody noticed his post and quickly made arrangements to refill the 20-year-old oxygen tank. The old oxygen tank has a capacity of only 20,000 litres.
This is simply not adequate with over 250 patients getting admitted in the GMC every day. With an average number of cases of over 3,000-4,000 per day, fortunately the majority opt for home isolation and treatment. But patients who opt for home isolation due to lack of support from the Health Services are rushed to the South Goa District Hospital and the North Goa District Hospital as the GMC wards are full up. The bulletin issued by Health Services revealed that the number of patients who were discharged on May 9 were less than the number of new patients admitted (271) in the GMC.
Unlike in the case of the GMC the SGDH has a capacity of 500 beds and it does not have tubed oxygen supply facility at patient’s bedside. At the SGDH the manual method of supplying oxygen through cylinders at the patient bed is used. The NGDH which has four floors only uses two floors while the remaining two floors remain unoccupied. Vishwajit had plans to give it to a private party. In the NGDH also there are no ventilators or tubed oxygen. In fact, it does not have a CT scan machine for chest scanning.
WHEN the oxygen is used up, the patient is asked to get additional oxygen required. Though Scoop Pvt Ltd, the official supplier of the oxygen to the GMC, is not able to maintain adequate supplies to its primary customer, it is selling oxygen cylinders on Facebook for Rs300 each. The catch is you have to put down a deposit of Rs5,000 with them. Part of the oxygen cylinder shortage is that when a patient expires, relatives do not return the cylinders to the agent they pick it up from.
Even worse a lot of people under home isolation go and pick up cylinder from Corlim where Scoop has its factory. But while Scoop offers oxygen cylinders it does not offer oxygen connectors. So not only does the patient’s attendant have to search for a connector but also find a skilled technician. The amount of oxygen given to the patient depends on the pulse oxymeter reading. You cannot pump more or less oxygen then necessary in specific cases.
It is a revelation that the Verna Industrial Estate has the capacity to supply oxygen. Clearly if the CM can offer oxygen from the Verna Industrial Estate to Sindhudurg, the Verna Industry Association should be able to meet the oxygen shortage at government hospitals. Though we keep hearing about deaths in government hospitals not only in Goa but in the entire country due to oxygen shortage, we don’t hear of patients dying for want of oxygen in private hospitals.
The only private industry house which offers GMC hospitals very limited quantities of oxygen is the Vedanata group which owns Sesa Goa. The Vedanta group owns a steel manufacturing unit at Amona in Sattari taluka. Oxygen is used to cut steel plates to convert them into the shape needed by the client. The plant put up by Dr Chico De lima, because he was then technical director, was the Amona plant which uses large quantities of oxygen. But it is only supplying three tonnes of oxygen a day to Goa.
Chairperson of Scoop Oxygen, Sanjeev Naik, is quoted saying that until covid-19 happened the State’s daily requirement of medical oxygen was 500 cylinders, which has now gone up 4,000 to 5,000 per day! “My capacity is 2,500 cylinders per day. So more than half the requirement of Goa has to come from outside the State.
It takes 22 to 24 hours for fresh cylinders from other manufacturers to reach Goa. The oxygen plants of Goa’s largest company Govind Poy Raiturkar are in Karnataka and they are not permitted to export oxygen Goa. The Central government has yet to supply any oxygen to Goa though it is a BJP state.
The Supreme Court had to intervene in the national capital, New Delhi, to force the Centre to supply oxygen to Delhi chief minister, Arvind Kejriwal, to the extent of 700 million tonnes oxygen as against its current supply of 500 million tonnes. Which is why as in Goa more people die of shortage of oxygen in Delhi then because of Covid-19!
The best option particularly for patients who chose to home isolate is to get an oxygen concentrator. Almost every Goan family has relatives abroad. Goans could ask their non-resident relatives and friends to gift them an oxygen concentrator which has a maximum capacity of 10 litres per second. This would be useful only in non-serious cases and not in critical one where the quantity of oxygen needed is much higher.
Though Vedanta has supplied 150 oxygen concentrators the chief of GARD (Goa Association of Resident Doctors) does not know where they have gone. Perhaps CM Sawant sent them to Sindhudurg.
A lot of people have become covid crorepati lately. This includes not only the people making and distributing vaccines but also those supplying syringes. In many cases in Goa vaccine drives had to stop due to shortage of syringes. Amongst the overnight covid crorepati are manufacturers and suppliers of masks, oxygen manufacturers including those making the cylinders and connectors, and most of all those in the business of sanitisation products.
Every company now calls its normal disinfectant Dettol, Savlon, Lifebouy, etc, “covid fighters.” Those who rent out not just oxygen cylinders but even ventilators have joined the list of covid crorepati. Among the others who have benefited from the pandemic are the operators of charters flights for many rich families have escaped to the Maldives where there is no case of covid-19. However, they are also those who love to come to Goa to gamble and dance in the night clubs and gifted Goa with covid-19, but this was before under pressure from the panchayats, Pramod Sawant was forced to shut down the casinos and the night clubs. The damage was done. Goa is the only State in the country under curfew or lockdown where liquor is still considered an essential commodity.
AND a final appeal to all my Goan and migrant brothers and sisters. This double mutant virus is a bhyankar (scary) variant. Within 48 hours even if you do not have a cold or fever it can directly get into your lungs and start the demolition. It can start with mild pneumonia which rapidly turns serious and leaves you gasping for air. The situation is complicated by the fact that test results takes one week to 10 days to arrive which is way too late. The moral of all this if you have symptoms of a breathing problem go to your doctor immediately to begin treatment right away, even before test results come in. Please refer to the box on medicines that can be taken, this mode of treatment has been suggested by Dr Edwin Gomes who set up the infrastructure during the first phase of covid-19 at the ESIC Hospital.
AND I appeal to all the biased bhakt not to mislead people by selectively quoting only recovery figures, without revealing the new cases. The positivity rate which means the number of people who underwent testing and found infected is still high at 50% in Goa. Goa should follow the Maharashtra example which has succeeded in bringing down the positivity rate by almost 40% during the strict lockdown it enforced. The Maharashtra government has also taken over hospitals built on government land for covid patients and has lashed the rates for various categories of accommodation to between Rs4,000 and Rs9,000. Comparatively, rates in Goa are Rs9,000 to Rs24,000 per night in private hospitals.
EVEM after recovery it comes to light that several patients have developed acute fibrosis, that is growth in the lungs which handicap breathing in and out. Patients who have suffered from severe Covid-19 pneumonia many need up to three months to recover completely.