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In a remote Rajasthan village, madarsa opens doors for Covid patients

A nursing graduate, 26-year-old Irfan Pathan quit his job at a private hospital in Jaipur before heading back to his village Kheerwa to volunteer at the madrasa, which was styled as a private Covid-19 care centre catering to people from nearby villages about a fortnight ago.

Written by Deep Mukherjee | Sikar |
Updated: May 22, 2021 8:00:55 am
In a Rajasthan village, madrasa opens doors for Covid patientsAround 20 patients are currently admitted in the facility at Jamia Arabia Barkatul Islam Madrasa. (Express Photo by Deep Mukherjee)

Inside the sprawling compound of the Jamia Arabia Barkatul Islam Madarsa in Kheerwa village of Rajasthan’s Sikar district, 26-year-old Irfan Pathan makes his rounds from one room to another, clutching a handwritten list of medicines and checking on the condition of Covid-19 patients.

A nursing graduate, Pathan quit his job at a private hospital in Jaipur before heading back to his village Kheerwa to volunteer at the madarsa, which was styled as a private Covid-19 care centre catering to people from nearby villages about a fortnight ago.

There are around 20 patients staying at the facility, says Pathan. Before being turned into a Covid treatment centre, the madarsa was a residential school for over 400 students, he adds.

Officials said the state government has decided to allow the facility at the madarsa — set up through donations and where treatment is free — to function as a quarantine centre.

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Laxmangarh sub-divisional officer (SDO), Kulraj Meena, said Kheerwa is among a cluster of 10 villages in the district from where the most cases were reported in the district. With more than 6,900 active Covid cases, Sikar is currently ranked fifth among districts with the highest number of active cases in the state.

“After discussions between villagers and the administration, we decided to allow the facility at the madarsa to function as a quarantine centre. They are carrying out treatment with the medicines prescribed by the government for Covid-19. They even managed to improve a patient’s oxygen saturation from the 70s to 94 with an oxygen concentrator,” said Meena.

“We presently have one oxygen concentrator which is being shared by two patients. The government doctor from the nearest primary health centre (PHC) Kheerwa comes twice a day to check on the patients while I stay here the entire day to look after them and also administer medicines,” says Pathan.

He tended to Covid-19 patients in Jaipur for the past year but decided to return to Kheerwa, his village, when he found out that the madarsa needed trained volunteers to look after the Covid patients.

The madarsa also has a lawn, where patients can exercise and catch fresh air.

The nearest government Covid care facility from Kheerwa is at the Jajod community health centre (CHC) — around 25 kilometres from the Madarsa.

Run by the Madarsa administration, the centre in Kheerwa has eased some of the burden of Jajod CHC, which is already full with patients, said SDO Meena.

The head of the Kheerwa centre, Maulana Hasan Mahmood Qazmi, says that while demand is increasing, a lack of medical oxygen supply is holding them back from opening their doors to more Covid patients. “The Covid centre in our madarsa is open to everyone irrespective of background or religion and treatment is free for all. Since the past few days, we are getting an increasing number of phone calls from nearby villages where people who have Covid symptoms want to come here. But, at the moment, we are unable to bring in patients who require oxygen because we don’t have adequate oxygen. If the government arranges around 10-15 oxygen cylinders for us every day, we would be able to cater to more people.”

He added that another oxygen concentrator has been arranged.

“Since we started functioning, around 10-12 patients have recovered while till now [overall] around 30 patients were admitted. We also run an OPD for those in the village having Covid-19 symptoms,” says Qazmi.

Officials however, are contending with a widespread shortage of oxygen supply. “At present, we are already facing oxygen shortage at the CHC in. That is why it is a bit difficult to supply oxygen to the madarsa at the moment. But we are hoping that in the next few days this problem will be sorted and then we will consider supplying oxygen cylinders at the madarsa too if needed,” said SDO Meena.

He added that a doctor from the local PHC visits the Kheerwa facility each day to check on patients and that the government is providing them with medical kits.

“The facility started around May 2-3 and the district collector too visited it. With everyone’s consent, we have unofficially identified it as a quarantine centre (the government hasn’t issued any official order but has allowed it to function) and help is being provided to them,” said Meena.

He SDO added that RT-PCR tests for patients in the madarsa centre are also being arranged by the government and that the administration is considering expanding the facility and stationing doctors too if more oxygen beds are started inside it.

District Collector Avichal Chaturvedi says the madarsa’s initiative was beneficial to the local administration in terms of treating patients with mild to moderate symptoms. “The initiative has been beneficial because the patients can be kept under monitoring and are also getting medical attention. At present, serious patients are not being kept there because we need doctors to attend to them and such patients are being admitted at CHCs or government hospitals. If the condition of any patient in Madarsa turns serious then the person will be referred to the nearest CHC,” says Chaturvedi.

Volunteers at the Madarsa facility, such as 30-year-old Abdul Wahid, however hope that the government takes steps to vaccinate them as most of the workers who tend to patients are in the 18-45 age group.

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