Also, nine PSA oxygen plants were set up during the pandemic — seven under the PM Cares fund, and two under CSR, reducing hospitals’ dependency on purchasing oxygen cylinders.
Last year, TOI reported that the oxygen crunch was felt because the directorate of health services awarded a ten-year contract to a single supplier, Scoop Industries Pvt Ltd. The government’s sole dependence on Scoop Industries prompted other suppliers to shut their manufacturing units in Goa and set up in other states.
During the pandemic, critical care facilities too were upgraded, and a lot of money was spent on high-end equipment including ventilators, monitors, syringe pumps and other equipment for ICUs, including for paediatric care.
There is also currently no dearth of PPE which was experienced in the initial days of the pandemic.
The super-specialty block at GMC also opened for Covid patients at a time when the hospital was overwhelmed with critical patients from across the state.
GMC’s head of pulmonary medicine, Dr Uday Kakodkar, who was nodal officer of the Covid hospital at the super-specialty block, told TOI that it was challenging because of the nature of the second wave that brought in very serious patients in large numbers. Of every 100 patients being brought in to GMC in May 2021, 80 would require oxygen, of which 40 would require ventilators.
“On May 4, there were nine admissions, and on May 14 within ten days, we had 123 admissions. No hospital in the world could have envisaged such an extraordinary situation. We tried not to send a single patient home and did the best we could,” he said, adding that Goa received 200 ventilators under the PM Cares fund.
He also organised the setting up of the super-specialty block at GMC in record time. “We had to set up the hospital from scratch. Everything had to be assembled and arranged, from bedsheets and pillow covers to drugs, on urgent basis. Few hours after we would commission a ward, it would get full,” he recalls.
The 34-bed wards would accommodate 16 extra beds, taking the capacity to 50. Within 18 days, he said the team started 12 wards and three ICUs, all of which were fully-occupied. “In total, we admitted 290 patients at the super-specialty block. The old GMC already had 900 patients admitted, the South Goa district hospital, which had a capacity of 500, was managing 700, and the ESI hospital, which had 50 beds pre-Covid, was treating 234.
At its peak, GMC had up to 130 daily admissions.
The pandemic also upgraded the state’s lab services. RT-PCR labs were set up in Mapusa, Margao and Ponda, and one is being set up at Chicalim.
“The RT-PCR labs can be used in future for diagnosis of other diseases like dengue, leptospirosis, TB, cervical cancer, etc. This is definitely a plus for the future,” a doctor said.
The state also went a step further and set up a genome sequencing lab at Asilo hospital, reducing the state’s dependency on labs in other states and reducing the waiting period for results from testing.
Post-the second wave, the focus was on building infrastructure for the third wave, with special focus on the paediatric population. Newborn care facilities at GMC were improved and enhanced. A centre for paediatric excellence is being set up at GMC, along with telemedicine for paediatric care.
A high dependency unit has already been operationalised at the South Goa district hospital, and some equipment has already arrived. In North Goa, beds for the special newborn care unit have expanded from five to ten.
“The importance of health and health infrastructure became highlighted during the pandemic,” a doctor said. “Not only in Goa but worldwide, everyone realised how little money was being spent on healthcare.” He added that the health department was working all these years but didn’t get any credit.
The pandemic also brought about better coordination between health centres and GMC. “Otherwise, the directorate of health services would function independent of GMC. Here, we worked together,” the doctor added.