Mumbai residential societies turn into isolation units for covid-19 patients
BJP MP Gopal Shetty urged citizens to set up these facilities to allow for better care of suspects and confirmed patients
Last week, a letter from the office of Gopal Shetty, Bharatiya Janata Party Member of Parliament, was widely circulated on WhatsApp. The politician from the North Mumbai Parliamentary constituency—which covers Borivali, Kandivali, Dahisar, Charkop, Magathane and Malad—urged Mumbaikars to set up isolation centres for covid-19 patients on their society’s premises in temporarily unused areas such as the clubhouse, gyms and refuge floors.
Predictably, one of the first residential societies to jump onboard was from the MP’s constituency. Vishwadeep Heights Society in Mahavir Nagar, Kandivali West, inaugurated a two-bed isolation facility at their gymnasium on 7 June. It has all necessary equipment to take care of asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic patients, who have been advised home quarantine, but are unable to completely isolate at home. A large family crammed in a one or two-bedroom flat is a reality for most middle-income households in the overcrowded city.
The isolation facility in Kandivali has two fowler beds that can be adjusted to help patients sit up, disposable bed sheets, oxygen cylinder with full kit, PPE kits, infrared thermometer, pulse oximeter, hand sanitiser, N-95 masks and essentials like bins for safely disposing biomedical waste. Committee member Nilesh Vyas says it cost about Rs50,000 to set it up. He believes such facilities will enable faster recovery of patients since they are closer to their family and will avoid contagion within their own homes. “But I am praying that these beds remain unoccupied," he adds.
Dr Gaurang Desai is a family physician who practices in the upscale Hiranandani neighbourhood of Powai in central Mumbai. Although residential societies there have not set up any isolation facilities, Dr Desai feels these will soon be needed. He adds that many societies in Mumbai should step in to invest in oxygen kits. In the lake area of Powai, about 15% of the patients require oxygen support and such an initiative can be immensely helpful for them. However, he says for oxygen support, medical monitoring is imperative, as well as a caregiver’s round-the-clock attention. So isolation facilities need a doctor on call too. “In gymkhanas and clubs within residential societies, how are you going to manage medical care?" he asks.
Areas that don’t fall within the purview of Shetty’s constituency may not welcome the idea due to internal political tussles. A spokesperson from his team says they are “in talks" with a residential society in Walkeshwar, an affluent neighbourhood in South Mumbai. “The idea is fantastic," agrees Ramesh Prabhu, Chairperson of Maharashtra Societies Welfare Association (MSWA). He is quick to add that more societies need to get on board to have an impact.
Prabhu outlines two significant roadblocks though—the high expenditure, which may go up to Rs1 lakh, to set up such facilities; and being accountable for the patient’s recovery. “In a situation like this, the society’s committee may not want to take responsibility for the patient," he says.
With steadily rising number of covid-19 patients (51,100 as of 10 June), Mumbai must strive to become ‘atmanirbhar’ in its fight against the virus in as many ways as it can.
FIRST PUBLISHED11.06.2020 | 09:45 AM IST