When all sections of society come together to fight COVID-19 in rural Maharashtra

District Collectors, teachers and retired government servants in interiors of Maharashtra put their best foot forward

From District Collectors to primary teachers and from retired government servants to serving police officials, every section of society in the interiors of Maharashtra is making innovative efforts, some even going beyond the official duty mandate, to help COVID-19 patients. Speaking to The Hindu, the different groups and individuals open up on how their efforts are helping those in need.

“I received a call last month from an acquaintance asking me if I could arrange an oxygen bed for her relative. It struck me that the proposed Covid care centre in my town was facing delays after the first wave of coronavirus receded. I decided to put in all my administrative experience to use and ensure that a centre was set up soon,” said Dattatray Kadu-Patil, living in Devlali-Pravara town in Ahmadnagar district after he retired from the State government.

He petitioned Shiv Sena’s local MP and the Congress MLA for a centre. “I know how the administration works. I have spent my entire life in it,” he said. Mr. Kadu-Patil soon got consensus from the administration and political leadership for a 50-bed covid care centre at local marriage hall. Initially funded through donations, it now receives financial and medical aid from the government.

Nandurbar’s district collector Dr. Rajendra Bharud’s innovative management to save oxygen has been widely publicised and the State Public Health minister Rajesh Tope too has acknowlwdged this. “We allotted fixed number of patients to one nurse who is tasked with monitoring patients needing oxygen at regular intervals. It proved so efficient that we not only cut oxygen wastage but also treated patients better,” Dr. Bharud told The Hindu.

In a tribal district like Nandurbar, where literacy rate is low and misconceptions regarding vaccine continue to thrive, Dr. Bharud has used teachers in primary schools effectively. “We asked them to meet and educate people and give them confidence by talking to them in their local language,” said Dr. Bharud, adding that being from tribal community himself and knowing the local language and customs helped him interact with locals.

Teachers have become an essential part in the fight against the pandemic in rural parts. A group of educators from Akole tehsil, a tribal and backward region, came together to set up a 60-bed Covid hospital with oxygen facility. “We saw the terrible situation of patients and decided to come together by raising funds. Within three days we raised ₹2.5 lakh. Soon, secondary and higher secondary teachers and college professors joined us,” said Bhausaheb Chaskar of Akole tehsil teachers coordination committee.

With funds pouring, the teachers swung into action with government authorities for permissions, purchasing and setting up a hospital. The hospital was set up at the primary health centre at Sugav Khurd village and will be run by Health Department officials

Amol Gunde, is a police sub-inspector posted at Latur district’s Killari village, and runs one of the most-resourceful WhatsApp groups for COVID-19 patients both when on and off duty. “It started with an idea to provide information on essential drugs, hospital beds and oxygen availability to patients. People started contributing and the number kept on increasing,” said Mr. Gunde. Individuals post their requirement on this group which gets circulated through the network of people who have the resources and wish to help.

“This group connects those who need help to those who are ready to help. Last week, we could save lives of six patients in a single day by finding them plasma donors. At a time when we hear depressing stories all around, such incidents where I managed to save lives of people make me feel better,” said Mr. Gunde.

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