In its fight against the second wave of Covid, Coimbatore hospitals faced severe oxygen shortage following a high influx of patients in need of oxygen.
Dr A Nirmala, dean of the Coimbatore Medical College and Hospital (CMCH), made a desperate call to Dr Balavenkat, senior consultant-anaesthesiologist, Ganga Hospital, Coimbatore, seeking support. The Rotarian, a member of RC Coimbatore, immediately circulated a video among Rotary, Round Table and other organisations with an appeal to help. “In the next 48 hours we had ₹2.4 crore in our kitty!” he says. Rotary clubs of Coimbatore pooled in ₹1 crore and Dr Rajesh and Dr Nitya, alumni of CMCH, raised a similar amount from the US. Funds are still pouring in and are being used for various Covid-related activities, he adds.
This money helped in setting up four oxygen plants in the GH and three in the ESI Hospital in Coimbatore. Each of these plants, costing ₹27 lakh, can generate 100 litres of oxygen per minute.
“It is all a joint effort. Boundaries have blurred and all clubs are huddling up together for service at this critical time,” says Chella Raghavendra, member of RC Coimbatore Spectrum, RID 3201. The club placed orders for two plants to be installed at the CMCH and RC Coimbatore East pitched in with one more. Each of these plants will provide piped oxygen to 20 beds simultaneously. Additionally, RC Coimbatore Satellite, along with Aquasub Pumps, installed a high-flow oxygen plant at the CMCH. It can fill up 72 cylinders a day and thus support another 40 beds there.
Vivekanandan, a member of RC Coimbatore North, arranged to supply these machines within a week through his company, Faraday Ozone. “He slashed his prices and even put on hold his export orders to meet our emergency need.” RC Coimbatore Spectrum roped in an NGO from Taiwan to provide 200 oxygen concentrators. “We will give them to the district collector to be installed at PHCs which have been converted as Covid care centres,” says Raghavendra.
Rotary India’s Covid Task Force zone coordinator Sunil Zacharia called an online meeting with DG Jose Chacko, assistant governors and district directors to extend relief on a war-footing. “‘If we Rotarians do not act now it is a crime,’ he said and this made a strong impact,” says district director R S Maruti. Rotarians from the city’s 41 Rotary clubs immediately formed a Covid Action team called G41 to extend support to the public, hospitals and frontline workers through what they termed Project Sanjeevani. Volunteers from the clubs were put on its committee, led by Maruti and district chair — community services P P Lakshmanan. “We pooled in resources from each club and categorised them under headings — doctors/hospitals and nursing homes, medical equipment, catering and ambulance services. This helped in speedy contact whenever needed,” he says.
Chacko formulated a 20-point agenda which was channelised into three verticals in consultation with DGE Rajasekhar, PDG A V Pathy, Raghavendra and AGs. These dealt with providing vaccination for Rotarians, their families and employees and Rotaractors; advocacy through digital and print media; and providing required equipment to government and private hospitals and PHCs. Popular You Tubers, influencers and Annets were roped in for its promotion. Rotaractors led by DRR Janani are working closely with the team in helping the public with online registration for vaccination, setting up online help desks and a Covid war room that can respond to queries from the public and doctors.
“We will soon provide seven machines to the ESI Hospital,” says Maruti. The hospital has increased its beds from 600 to 1,000 to treat Covid patients and hence the acute oxygen shortage. RC Coimbatore Sai City, in partnership with Coromondal Fertilisers, Chennai, has provided oxygen concentrators worth ₹50 lakh to the GH in Ooty and medical support worth ₹3.5 lakh to the CMCH..
Recently the G41 team received a request from the CMCH and ESI Hospital for RTPCR testing machines and other basic medical equipment which will be provided. Along with manpower acquired through Rotarians who run HR agencies, the team has rented 33 autorickshaws for use in PHCs during the lockdown. The rent, ₹10,000 for each autorickshaw, is borne by the clubs. The clubs are also taking care of consumable requirements such as masks, sanitisers, oximeters, gloves and PPE kits at the PHCs and hospitals.
Rotary clubs of Coimbatore will be providing oxygen assistance for a total 180 beds in the CMCH and 260 beds in the ESI hospital, says Maruti, adding that three clubs — RCs Coimbatore Uptown, D’elite and Greencity — are together sponsoring an ECMO machine worth ₹40 lakh for CMCH.
Several Rotarians are working with CSR partners and friends abroad to extend support to hospitals in Coimbatore. “Even the local community is involved. Recently one Rangaraj called me and said that he had heard about our work and wished to donate ₹1 lakh. Funds are pouring in and we are coordinating with clubs that have FCRA-registered accounts to bring in foreign funds,” he smiles. Business forums such as CII, SITRA and CAI have also shown interest to channelise their contribution through Rotary.
The Rotarians are also helping critically-ill patients get hospital admission. “One such patient, who I got a bed after nine hours’ coordination, told me that the first thing he wants to do after he recovers is join Rotary!” says Maruti, adding, “once this crisis is behind us, we all will have powerful stories to relate.”