Updated: May 15, 2021 2:32:13 am
When a surge in Covid-19 cases in Morbi left the healthcare system overwhelmed in early April, communities responded by setting up dedicated Covid care centres (CCCs) of and later converted them into dedicated Covid health centres (DCHCs) with around 1,000 beds, some of them exclusively for members of certain communities.
Being a comparatively new district, Morbi does not have a medical college or any large public or private hospital. Within days after cases started surging in the last week of March, 100 beds in the district General Hospital were fully occupied. So were around 200 beds in private Covid hospitals as number of active cases in the district jumped from 189 on April 2 to 507 on April 16.
Government converted its sub-district hospitals in Halvad and Wankaner and community health centres in Tankara, Jetpar and Maliya into DCHCs by adding oxygen (O2) beds. It also converted Adarsh Nivasi Shala in Morbi into DCHC and polytechnic college in Ghuntu village into a CCC, adding 288 beds.
Yet, as severe shortage of beds continued, community groups responded, first being the Patidar. It converted Jaylakshman Vidyadham, a boarding school in Jodhpar village, into a 300-bed Patidar Covid Centre, on April 8.
As all the beds were occupied in a day, the 51-member committee of the community converted Patidar Kanya Chhatralaya, a girls’ hostel in Morbi town, into a similar facility on April 13. Later on, 80 of the total 600 beds in the two premises were converted into O2 beds and the CCCs were converted into DCHCs, with their own team of doctors, nursing staff and volunteers. But these DCHCs admitted only those who belonged to Patidar community.
Lohana community also opened a 50-bed DCHC called Raghuvanshi Covid Isolation Centre for its members on April 9 in Morbi town. Sathvara community followed the lead by opening a 50-bed DCHC on April 14. Ismaili Khoja community, too, opened its DCHCs on April 24. These exclusive facilities added 700 beds, around 140 of them having oxygen supply.
Meanwhile, Simpolo Foundation run by Simpolo Group, a leading ceramic tile producer, opened an 80-bed DCHC in Bharatnagar village, while Jaydeep & Company, a firm associated with salt industry, set up a 100-bed DCHC in a community hall offered to them free of cost by the Jain community in Morbi town. Muslim and Patidar communities in Halvad taluka of Morbi district set up DCHCs in Halvad town. These four facilities with 250 beds, including 170 O2 beds, however, were open to all. Later on, Janki Kaila, vice-president of Morbi district panchayat, also opened a DCHC in Bela village with six oxygen beds.
Community leaders said their decisions were guided by exigencies. “As donations were made by members of the community, it was decided that only community members should benefit. Also, donors were of the view that if we could take care of members of our own community, it would lessen the burden on government facilities,” said Kirit Patel, one of the committee-members running the two DCHCs for Patidar community.
Kirit said that Morbi Ceramics Association initially pledged Rs1 crore donation and other organisations also pitched in. “Our MLAs and MPs helped in getting remdesivir injections allocated to us,” he added.
“Thanks to these donations, we have been able to treat 1,500 patients so far. We shut down our facility in Kanya Chhatralaya on May 12 as there were no patients. But in Jodhpar, 118 patients are still undergoing treatment,” Ashwin Barasara, director of of Jodhpar campus, said.
Ruchir Kariya of Raghuvanshi Covid Isolation Centre said initially they thought of keeping their facility open to all. “But then, we realised that we had only 50 beds and that the facility was set up by funds from Lohana community members. We feared if we kept it open to all, beds would get occupied soon and someone from Lohana community may have to suffer…” Kariya said, adding his DCHC treated 124 people as indoor patients and around 800 at its out- patients department (OPD), before the facility was closed down on Monday.
Meru Kanjariya, president of Sathvara Sahkar Mandal (SSM), an organisation of Sathvara community, also said they opened their DCHC in a locality dominated by Sathvaras. “No patient from other community came to our facility,” he said, adding 85 people received indoor treatment.
“Other communities were setting up facilities for their members. Covid-19 cases were more among Sathvaras. We had limited funds so we could treat patients from our community only,” said Chirag Kanjariya, a member of SSM.
Anil Hajiyani, a leader of the Khoja community involved in setting up a DCHC, said, “We would have liked to keep our DCHC open to all but we had limited number of beds and were worried that we might not be able to find enough resources.”
Morbi district collector JB Patel sees nothing wrong in communities setting up their exclusive Covid treatment facilities. “People of Morbi have this unique sense of responsibility in hour of crises. When hospital beds were not available, they set up CCCs and converted them into DCHCs as need for O2 beds arose. This certainly aided government efforts to tackle the situation. Patidars account for around 85 per cent of Morbi’s population and there is nothing wrong if the community sets up facilities for its members. In fact, they inspired others,” said the collector.
However, Patidar and Muslim leaders in Halvad thought differently from their Morbi counterparts. Ghanshyam Patel, chairman of Halvad agricultural produce market committee, and others set up a 30-bed CCC in a girls hostel in Halvad town and kept it open to all.
“We know suffering is the same for people of all communities. Youths of our community worked hard to arrange for doctors, medicine, oxygen, etc., without thinking who were the beneficiaries,” said Patel.
The Zalavadi Ghanchi Muslim community also kept its centre, inaugurated in Halvad on April 18, open to all. “Some sections of our community suggested that we should treat patients from our own community only. But others insisted that one should not look through the prism of communities in the time of pandemic. Many members of our community are welders and they already had oxygen cylinders. They pooled their cylinders, making it easy to have oxygen supply in 10 of our 20 beds,” says Ibrahim Bhoniya, a leader of Ghanchi community in Halvad.
Expressing similar views, Dilubha Jadeja, one of the partners of Jaydeep & Company, said, “We believe in equality of life. We opened the centre with the help of Lakha Jariya, president of Morbi town unit of BJP on April 20 and kept it open for all.” Around 900 received OPD treatment and a few dozen indoor treatment at the centre.
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