For emergencies, residential buildings are now setting up their own Covid-19 centres in vacant flats or club houses and equipping them with beds, oxygen cylinders, pulse oximeters and even oxygen concentrators for rehabilitative respiration.
They are also tying up with private doctors to monitor the health of patients until an ambulance can ferry them to hospitals with confirmed beds.
Yashodhan Bank of India Society in Andheri West was one of the first to create its own isolation centre in an unoccupied flat. The chairperson of the society, BJ Satam said the society has 196 flats and over 500 residents. He said one of the flats has been turned into an isolation centre on trial basis. It has two beds and two oxygen cylinders have been procured on rent. They can be refilled at a short notice and don’t cost much. Each cylinder can last for up to eight hours. “In case a resident gets infected and needs oxygen supply, we can administer it here itself and can wait for the ambulance to arrive. Asymptomatic patients or those with mild symptoms can also use these facilities till they recover,” he said.
A few doctors from the Andheri housing society have volunteered to help. Satam said, “We know that the healthcare system is overwhelmed. We are trying to create our own emergency response mechanism. It is a basic set up but can save lives,” Satam said, adding that people shouldn’t die due to virus-related complications like breathlessness and must get oxygen support on time.
Congress MLA Amin Patel too has given a push to supplying oxygen cylinders to housing societies. Patel’s initiative, along with Saifee Ambulance service, allows citizens to rent cylinders, including equipment such as tubes and other necessary equipment. Patel said the aim is to procure 1,000 cylinders, of which 125 have already been acquired.
Meanwhile, Patel has written to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray to direct the health department to issue guidelines to enable converting spaces in housing societies into isolation centres. He has also had preliminary discussions with Chief Secretary Ajoy Mehta, BMC chief IS Chahal and senior doctors and bureaucrats.
Patel agreed with Satam’s logic of using the centres for asymptomatic patients or those with mild symptoms. “The choice to opt for such an arrangement, however, will lie with the society,” he said, adding that it will reduce the burden on government hospitals.
Another society that has already favoured setting up such a centre is Basant Park Society in Chembur. Manish Sidhwani from the society said they have also procured oxygen concentrators on rent. “In case any resident tests positive and shows signs of oxygen depletion, they shouldn’t have to wait for a hospital bed to become available or the ambulance to arrive. We can easily give them emergency medical aid here,” Sidhwani said.
Saket Tiku, President of the All India Industrial Gas Manufacturers Association (AIIGMA), told Mirror that medical oxygen supply is monitored under the Food and Drugs Act. He said before buying medical oxygen one should verify whether the seller has a licence.
A member of the Central government’s Commerce and Industry Ministry’s committee set up for a steady supply of medical oxygen across India, Tiku said medical oxygen should be strictly used under a doctor’s supervision. “There is also the risk of contamination. A cylinder used by a Covid patient should not be used on another one,” said Tiku, adding that there are guidelines on how to clean them after use. “Make sure the supplier is following all these guidelines,” said Tiku.