The Bombay High Court at Goa on Wednesday said, “Whatever cylinders are available, it is time the government takes control of them and distributes them equitably. These are desperate times.”
A Division Bench of Justices M.S. Sonak and N.W. Sambre was hearing a public interest litigation filed by the South Goa Advocates’ Association, seeking direction from the court on COVID-19 management in Goa.
With regard to the requirement for oxygen, AG (AG) D.J. Pangam said an expert would assess if there was deficiency or not. The court interrupted and said, “We have seen videos of people gasping for breath due to lack of oxygen. And you are going to assess if there is deficiency?”
The AG said the solution was to replace cylinders but this would take some time. “What can be done so that no deaths happen tonight due to the lack of oxygen? Is there a solution for the present?” the Bench asked
While taking stock of beds at the Goa Medical College (GMC), it was informed that there were more than 700 beds available but there were 950 patients, so there is a shortage of 300 beds.
The court asked if there was a shortage of cylinders there. The AG replied that there was no shortage of oxygen but there was a shortfall in cylinders used to supply oxygen.
The court asked if the Rotary Club could supply cylinders and was told that the Red Cross would have an 300 additional cylinders.
The Nodal Officer was called to talk about the situation at the GMC and he said one trolley had to reach the GMC every 20 minutes and one trolley would have 48 cylinders. Principal Secretary Puneet Kumar Goel said it was not possible to increase trolleys, and added their supplier was able to produce about 1,100 cylinders in the coming days. “Even if we wished, 72 trolleys are impossible [to provide] in a day. At best, we can provide 55 trolleys,” he said.
Government Secretary Ravi Dhawan said the Central government had been asked to enhance oxygen supply to Goa from 26 MT (metric tonnes) to at least 40 MT per day. He added that all of Goa needed at least 55 MT of oxygen per day and the GMC alone needed 20 MT per day.
The court noted, “Statistics show an alarming rate of deaths taking place on Goa due to want of oxygen. We need to find a solution. We can’t be in denial. Article 21 — Right to Life [of the Indian Constitution] — is completely violated if people die due to lack of oxygen.”
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