Vishal Singh, a 42-year-old resident of Sahara Grace condominiums in Sector 28, Gurugram, watched his father, who is nearing 80, suffer from COVID-19 with no access to hospital beds or oxygen cylinders. Even a man of privilege like Vishal, who owns a chain of schools called Indus Valley Public School in the Delhi-NCR region and two Delhi Public Schools in Uttar Pradesh, was struggling to find basic amenities for his father.
(Image above of Vishal Singh on the right and a bed in the COVID care facility he set up.)
Speaking to The Better India, Vishal says, “Despite having all the resources in hand and having contacts in different private hospitals, my father couldn’t access a hospital bed or oxygen. Instead of waiting on hospitals to respond, we got everything my father needed for a home quarantine, and thankfully he’s doing much better now. It was an extremely difficult moment for my family and I. A couple of days back, as I was going on my morning stroll, I saw a series of emails being exchanged by members of my residential society about setting up a COVID-19 care facility inside the complex.”
However, setting up a COVID care facility inside the residential complex was going to cost a lot of money and other residents weren’t willing to take on the responsibility. Vishal then reached out to General (Retd) VK Narula, the president of the Residents Welfare Association (RWA), and Dr Nagra, a retired doctor formerly with Manipal Hospital and resident of Sahara Grace, telling them that he was willing to foot the bill for the facility.
“I was willing to give up my apartment to set up this facility. There is also a massive clubhouse in our society, which was closed due to the pandemic. Inside the clubhouse is a sizable hall which is centrally air-conditioned with washrooms and other basic infrastructure attached to it. With over 60 residents out of 200 suffering from COVID-19 in our society, there was no time for debates. We needed to create something to ameliorate the suffering of our fellow residents. Although these are people residing in high-end flats, the non-availability of hospital beds and oxygen has affected everyone,” says the 42-year-old resident.
His Society’s Very Own COVID Centre
On the morning of 24 April Vishal began the process of recruiting nursing staff, housing staff and purchasing beds, stools, cabinets, oximeters, suction machines, oxygen concentrators, oxygen cylinders, masks, PPE kits, cabinets, saline water, etc, alongside his personal assistant. Irrespective of the rates, he bought them because there was no time to negotiate prices. As the day closed, he got all the infrastructure needed, got trucks to transport them here and set it all up at the hall in the society’s clubhouse in coordination with Dr Nagra.
The five-bed facility is equipped with side tables, cabinets, food tables, suction machines, oximeters, masks, PPE kits, oxygen concentrators and a steady supply of oxygen cylinders.
“It took us two days and I personally spent about Rs 20 lakh to set this up. Our relief centre, which offers free care, has been up and running since 9 am this morning with the first patient coming in at 10 am. As of now, we have three critical patients out of five in our facility. We are not taking people who can self-quarantine and have healthy oxygen levels. We are taking in patients with blood oxygen levels dipping below 90% since they need special care. We have hired two excellent and experienced nurses and three housekeeping staff, of which one is also tasked with obtaining supplies from outside our society,” says Vishal.
Assisting Dr Nagra, who is heading the facility and also set up a WhatsApp group for his fellow residents, are two other doctors from the society who are helping monitor and guide patients.
‘It’s High Time We Become Selfless’
“Patients with pre-existing conditions or other comorbidities have to take medicines in consultation with their own respective doctors. After all, we are not a hospital, but a relief centre. Most patients coming in are elderly. They have to take a consultation with their own respective doctors first on a WhatsApp call or any such platform and get their own medicines. See, we really don’t know what’s going on in their bodies or other complications they are suffering from. We don’t want to give them the wrong injection or medicine. Instead, we are monitoring the patient and offering a steady supply of oxygen, bed, cleanliness and home-cooked nutritious food from residents of this apartment complex. I am paying the two nurses Rs 4,000 each per day because they can’t leave the society as these patients need round the clock care. Food and comfortable accommodation for the nurses and housekeeping staff is being taken care of by the society,” he says.
As of today, the COVID care facility is fully booked up with eight patients on the waiting list. Vishal’s phone has been ringing non-stop with inquiries for beds and calls from 10 other residential societies on how they can set up a similar facility in their apartment complex.
Unlike full-fledged hospitals, where admitted patients have to stay for 12-14 days straight, at their facility, if someone needs oxygen for two days and gets their levels to shoot up above 95%, the next person can come in while the other quarantines himself again at home.
“Seeing the suffering in my own family, I had no option but to set this facility up. It’s high time we become selfless. No matter how much money or power you possess, this pandemic can affect you. I basically sourced all the components needed over the internet. Our work here has inspired other members of our society to step up and do their part. Women have come together to cook breakfast, lunch and dinner for all COVID-19 patients in our society. People are pooling in their money to help pay for these meals. We don’t want any of the 65 patients in our society to go anywhere unless they need to be cared for in an Intensive Care Unit (ICU),” notes Vishal.
As the RWA president said in his letter to residents, “I would like to put on record that this medical facility which has been created, was not possible without the unflagging zeal and complete financial support of Mr Vishal Singh. His personal interest ensured beds and equipment installed in just about eight hours, who was himself standing at the sight till 12.30 in the night. On behalf of all of the society, I take this opportunity to thank Mr Vishal Singh profoundly in coming up to the expectation and need of the hour. He has assured us continuous support hereafter, as well.”
(Edited by Yoshita Rao)