Here is another example of RIPE Shekhar Mehta thinking big and taking quick decisions to help thousands of Covid patients in rural and urban India.
An MoU was signed between Rotary India Humanity Foundation (RIHF) and United Way Bengaluru, an NGO with patrons from the US, UK and other countries, for delivery of 100,000 oxygen concentrators, setting up of 100 PSA plants to generate medical oxygen; and supply of 5,000 Bipaps (non-invasive ventilators) and 50,000 oximeters at a cost of ₹300 crore ($40.4 million). Speaking at the virtual sign-in ceremony, Mehta recalled the telecon he had with PDG G Olivannan, RID 3232, and the sense of urgency he noted among the partners in taking forward one of the largest Covid projects so far in the country.” While in the first wave of the pandemic, Rotary clubs have done projects such as setting up Covid centres, distributing PPE kits, sanitisers and food grains, all worth ₹150 crore, at the grassroots-level to fill the gaps in relief work by the governments, Rotarians have once again risen to the challenge during the second wave, he said. The district governors had led the clubs in the distribution of oxygen concentrators and other medical equipment to hospitals and rural PHCs, he added.
The Rotary national committee of the Covid Task Force acted quickly and worked on artificial intelligence and algorithms to find out places in need of medical oxygen and other supplies, and these were delivered promptly. “Rotary will track and monitor the usage of oxygen concentrators given under this project over a one-year period,” explained Mehta. In the first phase, district hospitals and PHCs in Tamil Nadu and West Bengal will get these machines. In the second phase eight more states — Rajasthan, Karnataka, Delhi, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Chhattisgarh, Goa and Haryana — will benefit from this partnership, he added.
An exciting journey
Sharing his experience of the last two weeks, when the first phase was being implemented, RIDE A S Venkatesh said, “In the last 15 days, we had delivered over 2,300 machines across PHCs, community health centres and district hospitals in TN and West Bengal.” Around 7,500 units would be delivered by June third week covering eight more states. As the Covid situation was dynamic, “we have to make real-time assessment based on the needs of hospitals and the rise in Covid cases,” he said.
PRID Ashok Mahajan, chairman, Rotary India Covid Task Force, said that over 150,000 Rotarians are involved in setting up Covid centres, holding vaccination camps and disbursing medical equipment to hospitals across the country. “By mid-June over 300,000 people were vaccinated under the Rotary banner. We will continue to play the advocacy role, support vaccine drive and deliver equipment to hospitals in the coming months,” he said.
PRIPs Rajendra Saboo and Kalyan Banerjee complimented Mehta for speeding up this mega Covid project which would help India to get ready for the third wave too, apart from revamping the healthcare system. Rajya Sabha MP and PDG Vivek Tankha said, “This was a fantastic initiative under Mehta’s leadership wherein a coalition is formed with NGOs to lessen the hardship of the second wave and get ready for the third wave. I will pass a ‘thank you’ motion in Parliament to commend Rotary for this initiative.”
PDG Olivannan said in his 27 years of experience in Rotary, “this is my greatest moment, as for the first time I saw RIPE Shekhar Mehta in action from the concept to the implementation stage at close quarters, right from the zoom call on May 15 when I took up this project with him.”
RIDs Kamal Sanghvi, Dr Bharat Pandya, Trustee Gulam Vahanvaty, RIDE Dr Mahesh Kotbagi and RC Madras North president Venkataraman Visveswaran, who took up the initiative with Mehta, along with Olivannan, spoke at the sign-in ceremony. Speaking to Rotary News, Biswajit Ghosh, chief operating and strategy officer, RIHF, said, “so far we have supplied 18,000 oxygen concentrators and are expecting 32,000 more in the coming days. Due diligence is being carried out across states to set up PSA plants at district hospitals. Also, we may expand our delivery list of critical equipment if the need arises based on our assessment, hence the project value may go up.”
While United Way signed the agreement with Rotary, there are other implementing partners including Swasth, Sequoia Capital, Sattva, Capillary Technology, ACT (Action Covid-19 Team), 24/7.ai and Zomato Feeding India. Around 420 Rotarians including DGs, PDGs and Rotary leaders were present at the virtual event.