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People cannot die merely because there are no expert drivers to drive tractors which transport oxygen: Bombay HC Goa Bench

COVID-19 patients should not be at the risk of losing their lives due to logistical and technical failures of the government in ensuring that Oxygen supply for COVID hospitals is replenished on time, the Bombay High Court said on Thursday (South Goa Advocates Association v. State of Goa & Ors).

The observations came after the Court was informed that though the State does not face issue of Oxygen shortage, replenishing the stocks in hospitals on time due to logistical problems like unavailability of experts to drive tractors which transport oxygen trolleys, is causing issues.

These are technical and logistical problems. Along with power comes responsibility. People cannot die for reasons that we don’t have driver or technician, we did not get spanner etc,” the Court said.

The vacation bench of Justices MS Sonak and NW Sambre was informed that over forty people had died on Wednesday and the authorities were facing issues in replenishing the oxygen stock without delay. One of the reasons cited was lack of expert drivers who can drive tractors carrying the Oxygen stock to the hospital, particularly Goa Medical College.

The Bench said that it is “pained that such logistical issues should give rise to serious consequences to the COVID patients”.

The Court was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) petition filed by South Goa Advocates’ Association (SGAA) seeking court’s intervention in issues related to COVID-19 management in Goa.

The Court was informed that of the 40 COVID related casualties in the Goa Medical College, 15 took place between 2 am to 6 am.

The hospital authorities informed the Court that critical patients were on ventilators on higher floors where oxygen levels fell when it was being replenished.

The doctors of the Goa Medical college and hospital, who were present for the hearing, also told the Court that serious patients could not be moved as they were connected to ventilators.

Advocate Vivek Rodrigues, appearing for Scoop industries which provide oxygen, submitted that the pressure issue also arose when the trolley through which oxygen is supplied, had to be changed several times a day.

Frustrated at the submissions, the Court wondered why the State was not able to find a solution for this.

“You (hospital authorities) give physics problem. He (doctor of medical college) gives medical problem. How can you not be able to get a solution for this? it is about lives of people,” the Court demanded.

The Court directed the State to overcome these logistical issues so that precious lives are not lost on account of deficiency in the supply of oxygen to patients.

The Court recorded the State Health Secretary’s submission that efforts will be made to engage services of expert drivers for driving oxygen trolleys to hospitals and dura cylinders will be installed which might help tide over the issue of changeover of trolleys.

The Court directed a technician from Scoop Industries to remain present for maintenance of the oxygen to ensure it is not hampered in any manner.

The Court also sought a status report from the Health Secretary regard these issues by tomorrow.

“If we are satisfied then we hold the hearing on May 17, but if we are not satisfied then we make it clear, we will hold proceedings on May 15, even though it is Saturday. Everyone is working 24×7, judiciary cannot be an exception,” the bench clarified.


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