Updated: May 28, 2021 9:42:07 am
In 2020, when the Covid-19 pandemic hit the country, the remote tribal areas of North Maharashtra were luckily spared. With no one having heard of the disease earlier, misinformation and rumours were rife, leading to an atmosphere of fear among people as the areas lacked administrative set up to deal with the crisis.
Prathibha Shinde of Loksangharsha Morcha, a grassroots-level advocacy group, spoke about a certain incident that pushed them towards setting up a Covid care centre at Jalagaon.
“An 82-year-old patient was found inside a locked toilet block of a government-run Covid care centre 8 days after she had died. This incident had led to a major uproar. At that point, we decided to pitch in to help the society and the government to fight this pandemic,” she said. Since then, the care centre run by the Morcha out of a government hostel building has treated more than 1,700 patients, mostly from the weaker sections of the society.
Behind this decision also lies the deep ideological link that the Morcha shares with works of social reformers like Mahatma Jyotiba Phule, Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj and Dr Babasaheb Ambekdar. Shinde explained that during the plague crisis in Pune, both Mahatama Phule and his wife Savitribai had come out to help people, with the latter herself contracting the disease and dying of it.
“We pride ourselves as the followers of Phule-Shahu-Ambedkar and our inspiration lies in their acts. Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj would also have come out to help others. This was the main inspiration for us to start a centre,” she added.
The 120-bed unit started functioning last September. Manned by two doctors, nine nurses, eight ward boys, four female attendants and 11 conservatory staff, the centre entirely depends upon philanthropic donations for its day-to-day activities.
“We have never been short of funds as people are always ready to pitch in,” she affirmed. The centre, which admits asymptomatic or mild Covid-19 patients, also has 10 beds with oxygen.
All medicines provided here are free of cost. During the first wave, the centre had run for two months from September and had treated 823 patients. However, currently, it has been running since March and has treated 930 patients.
“In case the patients turn serious, we shift them to the government medical college in Jalgaon,” she said. Yoga, aerobics and other forms of entertainment are also present to keep the patients mentally healthy. After their discharge, the patients are given medicines for 7 days, alongside pamphlets regarding the norms they should be following at home. “They get a call from the centre on the seventh and fourteenth day after their discharge to enquire about their health,” she added.
Most patients at the unit come in from rural Jalgaon, Dhule and Nandurbar district. “This time, around 20 per cent of the patients were from the tribal communities, which is a marked change from the first wave when hardly anyone from the community had contracted the virus,” Shinde said.
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