PANAJI, May 14: The nightmare does not seem to end: Thirteen more Covid patients died at Goa's apex government hospital, the Goa Medical College, in the early hours of Friday owing to oxygen mismanagement.
With that, the toll of patients who have perished between 2 am and 6 am at the premier health facility in the last four days has reached 75.
Amid the spate of deaths, Goa Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari on Friday conducted a review of the Covid-19 situation in a virtual conference with Chief Minister Pramod Sawant and Health Minister Vishwajit Rane.
Goa currently has 32,387 active cases, which amounts to more than 2 per cent of the state's entire population of approximately 15 lakh.
Videos of chaos at the numerous wards of the Medical College have gone viral, with patients and relatives pleading for assistance as well as uploading emotive snapshots of helplessness and lack of hygiene in the health facility.
A video shot at Ward No. 145 shows patients sleeping on mattresses with oxygen monitors beeping in the background and the dull echo of family members patting patients in a bid to reassure them. The video also shows debris of used food packets and other waste piled at a corner of the ward, spilling out of garbage bags.
Opposition MLA of the Goa Forward Party, Vijai Sardesai, has called the four hours between 2 am and 6 am -- when most of the deaths occurred -- as the "dark hour" of death.
Despite a grilling of government agencies by the Bombay High Court, which is hearing a bunch of public interest litigations related to poor Covid management and shoddy oxygen management at the premier hospital, the spate of deaths did not stop, with 15 persons dying on May 12 and 13 dying in the early hours of Friday.
"There is a complete collapse of governance. Despite the High Court’s intervention," Sardesai said.
"If the high court has to intervene in every matter, why do you need a government? We had demanded RT-PCR tests to be made mandatory because of increasing tourist footfalls in Goa, especially from Maharashtra which is facing a huge spike," Youth Congress president Varad Mardolkar said.
"This oxygen issue has been around for 14-15 days. But the government could not fix it. It took the high court to intervene and take some steps to address the crisis," Mardolkar said.
The tragedy also comes against the backdrop of a feud between Chief Minister Pramod Sawant and Health Minister Vishwajit Rane over the control of the state's Covid management mechanism.
Back to the wall, Goa has hired eight "trained and experienced" tractor drivers from Maharashtra for transportation of oxygen trolleys to health facilities. In a status report filed before the bench, the government also announced a reversal of its earlier decision to ban private oxygen suppliers from refilling oxygen cylinders for NGOs and Covid patients.