By: Sukant Deepak
“There is no point writing my name. I am just doing what I can,” says the 68-year-old, who makes it a point to bring food packets and soup for the 50 patients and volunteers at the Mini Covid Care Centre in Bal Bhavan in Chandigarh. Everyday. She says this is the least she can do.
So is the case with Shantanu Bhardwaj, who owns a shop in Sector-22. He makes a quick round to the Centre to ask if they need anything. “It is going to be a routine till the facility is operational.”
Run by the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Sewa Society, an NGO, which also runs three hospitals in the region, the 50-bedded Mini Covid Centre which started on May 4 is already full. “Even before the Chandigarh Administration invited NGOs and individuals to set up these centres, we were already thinking of starting one. In this case, the administration has given us the building while we set up the facility from our own resources in 36 hours including the piped oxygen facility set up by a Delhi-based team,” says Harjit Singh Sabharwal, executive member of the Society. From engaging an entire team of health professionals including doctors, 14 nurses, technicians, cleaners, the volunteers of the society set up eight dormitories (four beds in each one) complete with piped oxygen, curtains, coolers, exhaust fans and television sets.
Impressed by their work, the administration has asked the society to take up the 100-bedded Infosys sarai too in PGI which has also been designated as a Mini Covid Centre. “It will be ready very soon, our volunteers are working at a break-neck speed. Ten doctors and fifteen nurses besides other staff have been commissioned for that centre.”
With contributions pouring in from across the country after a video about their effort went viral recently, he stresses that funding is not an issue. “When systems fail, it is the common man who steps forward to ensure that everything runs smoothly. Just today morning, I got a call from someone who said he would like to donate an ambulance. He kept insisting that I should tell him what else is required. People across age groups and economic strata are turning up to ask what we need. While leaving, many thrust an envelope in our hands,” says the social worker.
Considering that 40 beds in the hospital are with oxygen, the executive member laments that it is not just Delhi, but even this region that is facing a lack of the same. “You cannot even imagine the kind of black marketing that is going on. Even oxygen regulators are in extremely short supply. These are the kind of things that keep us on our toes — we are experienced enough when it comes to organisation, management and supervision.”
No patient is expected to pay any fee — be it for the hospital, medicines, tests or food. “Not even for the expensive CT scans. I am in constant touch with the DC for medicines quota etc. Frankly, even if an injection costs Rs 2000, we don’t care. It will be given for free. Those who can’t afford expensive treatment also have a right to life, right? Sometimes I wonder, if a small organisation can manage things, what is stopping the government from engaging their best minds out in the field for better management?”
There is a fervor of activity at the Indira Holiday Home in Sector 24 where another 48-bed centre has been set up by the The Competent Foundation and Bharat Vikas Parishad. Coordination on walkie-talkies and mobile phones does not cease. Attached with Government Multi-Specialty Hospital, Sector 16, for the regulation of admission of patients, list of medicines required to be kept at the centre etc, Sanjay Tandon, State president of BJP from Chandigarh, who founded and runs the NGO, Competent Foundation says, “This is a completely digitalised centre. Vital information regarding the patients, which is collected thrice a day, is communicated to the kin directly via e-mail. For the purpose of surveillance, CCTV cameras have been installed inside the halls. We can monitor the screens from home. The attendants can also keep a tab on the patient, while at home. So, we are working to develop it into a state-of-art facility.”
Ensuring that besides free treatment, patients are provided with steamers, toiletries, napkins, television sets etc, Tandon says that right now his effort is to ensure get at least 40 beds with oxygen running. “Impressed by our efforts, Manoj Kumar Parida, the Chandigarh UT Advisor has suggested that we increase the capacity to 100 beds.”
Adding that the foundation did not have to go in for a fund collection drive, the State President says, “My son uploaded a post on Facebook describing the initiative taken by the foundation and writing about the equipment and material required. You will be surprised to know that we ended up receiving thrice the amount of material we had asked for. When people find someone dependable, there is no dearth of support.”
And it is not just established NGOs that are coming forward in these unprecedented times. A group of teenagers from Chandigarh under the foundation ‘Humanity Has Hope’ (HHH) have formed a group of 50 volunteers from across the country — including Chandigarh, Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata — to assist people with oxygen cylinders, hospital beds and ambulances. Using their phones and social media handles, these five youngsters — Aanya Malik, Vaanya Gilhotra, Tara Khanna, Sanya Singal and Ishan Sindhwani (from Noida) who started the drive three weeks back spend hours verifying leads and sharing numbers with those in need. “We started with five helpline numbers, our personal mobile numbers. Now we have 50 volunteers with their numbers. Soon, we are also going to manage the ration part for Covid affected families,” says Malik.
Speaking to IANS, Yashpal Garg, State Nodal Officer for Mini Covid Centres and Oxygen Supply says that in a pandemic situation, the assistance offered by NGOs and private individuals goes a long way in easing the stress on the over-burdened government system. “They have reduced our workload considerably by taking care of all arrangements in these Mini Covid Centres — from funding, managing to supervising. Also, for them, it is not a job but a service. Their level of commitment is commendable.”