Twenty-six coronavirus patients died at the state-run Goa Medical College and Hospital between 2 am and 6 am on Tuesday, said Health Minister Vishwajit Rane. But the cause of death was not clear.

Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant, who visited the health facility, said the gap between the “availability of medical oxygen and its supply to Covid-19 wards in the GMCH might have caused some issues for the patients”, reported PTI.

During his visit, Sawant announced the setting up of a ward-wise mechanism to ensure a smooth supply of medical oxygen. “Doctors who are busy treating patients cannot spend their time in arranging logistics like oxygen,” said the chief minister. “I will hold a meeting immediately to set up ward-wise mechanisms to ensure that oxygen is supplied to patients in time.”

Sawant, however, claimed that there was no scarcity of oxygen in the state but said problems arise as cylinders do not reach their destinations on time. “We have abundant supplies of [medical] oxygen,” said the chief minister. “There is no scarcity in the state.”

The state health minister also remained evasive about the cause, but sought a probe by the High Court. “The high court should investigate the reasons behind these deaths,” Rane said. “The high court should also intervene and prepare a white paper on oxygen supply to the GMCH, which would help to set the things right.”

He, however, admitted that there was a shortfall in the supply of medical oxygen at the Goa Medical College and Hospital as of Monday. He added that the medical oxygen requirement at the facility as of Monday was 1,200 jumbo cylinders, of which only 400 were supplied. “If there’s a shortfall in the supply of medical oxygen, the discussion should be held about how to bridge that gap,” he added.

A three-member team of nodal officers has been set up by the state government to oversee coronavirus treatment at Goa Medical College and Hospital. Rane said the team should give its inputs to the chief minister.

Goa has over 32,000 active cases. On Monday, it registered 50 deaths that pushed the toll to 1,729.

Oxygen crisis

India’s healthcare infrastructure, which is tackling a surge of Covid-19 cases amid the second wave of the pandemic, has been in shambles as the demand for medical facilities exceeds the supplies.

Shortages of medical oxygen have been reported from several states as daily Covid-19 infections have soared since the start of April in the second wave of the pandemic.

Several patients have died after hospitals have run out of oxygen. On May 4, 13 patients died at the Chengalpattu Government Hospital in Tamil Nadu following an alleged disruption in oxygen supply. On May 2, 24 patients died in Chamarajanagar district hospital in Karnataka allegedly due to lack of oxygen supply. A day earlier, 12 patients, including a doctor, died in Delhi’s Batra Hospital after oxygen ran out for more than an hour at the private facility.

On April 24, at least 20 coronavirus patients in Delhi died after the Jaipur Golden Hospital ran out of oxygen. A day before, 25 “sickest” coronavirus patients died overnight at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital in the city amid a last-minute scramble for oxygen.