With Covid cases increasing in rural areas of Rajasthan, these centres, which also have oxygen beds, will be the first line of treatment for local residents
In the middle of the pandemic a story of hope and goodwill has emerged from Rajasthan, where two Covid care centres have been set up within 48 hours in the deserts of Barmer district.
Both have been set up in temporary bunkers, or containers, with the help from the local MLA and good Samaritans who have experience in setting up temporary bases for oil and petrol companies.
Neither centre took any financial help from the government and, between them, have 125 beds.
With Covid cases increasing in rural areas, these centres will be the first line of treatment for local residents. They also have a few oxygen beds for more severe cases.
The first centre is in Baytoo, which is over 100 km from Barmer town. It has 100 beds, of which 30 have oxygen. The second is in Sambhar and has 25 beds, of which two are oxygen beds.
The moving spirit behind this enterprise is Congress MLA Harish Chaudhary, and he says he did not take a single rupee from the state government.
“Barmer is geographically very big… the district hospitals cannot cater to all people. We thought Sambhar should have a hospital. So all local representatives and people got together to make this… not a single rupee from the government has been spent,” Mr Chaudhry said.
“Everyone helped in any way they could… Now we have handed it to the government,” he added.
Over 40 per cent of Rajasthan’s Covid cases are from rural areas of the state, and to reach life-saving drugs and medical oxygen to these remote corners is the government’s biggest challenge.
“We had 100 beds to start with… 10 had oxygen. Now that has increased to 16 and people who cannot get treatment in Barmer or Balotra are coming here,” Dr Jogesh Chaudhary, who works at the Baytoo centre, said.
Among the many people who helped set up the two centres is Lalit Kiri, a local businessman who has expertise in setting up makeshift camps for oil-drilling companies.
“These bunk houses have all the amenities, including AC, a pantry and a place for the doctor to stay… it is like a four-star hotel room,” he said proudly.
Locals in the area have also undertaken to provide Covid patients with all meals, leaving the state government to only worry about medical treatment.
To that end, four doctors and seven nurses have been stationed in Baytoo.
Rajasthan is one of the states most badly affected by the second Covid wave.
Nearly 18,000 new cases were reported on Sunday evening, and active cases have crossed two lakh. Only Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala and Uttar Pradesh have more current cases.