After oxygen langar, Ghaziabad NGO sets up Covid-19 Care centre

Sikh saviours breathe life into helpless Covid-19 patients

Society

May 18, 2021

/ By Varsha Singh / New Delhi

A small, relatively unknown organisation that came as a ray of hope and life-saver to thousands of Covid-19 patients has now set up a full-fledged Covid-19 care centre and also plans to build a permanent hospital for the underprivileged sections of the society.

It was not too long ago when Delhi was devastated due to the severe oxygen shortage that led thousands of people wander the streets in search of oxygen. It was then that a unique initiative launched by a gurdwara in Ghaziabad’s Indirapuram became viral. Within a couple of days, social media was flooded with images of ‘oxygen langar’ showing thousands of desperate Covid-19 patients lining up to get emergency supply of oxygen.

“With the second Covid wave nobody got a chance to prepare. Hospitals were full and none of them were taking calls from anyone as they did not have any beds available. It was then that Khalsa Help International held a meeting at Indirapuram Gurdwara thinking of possible ways on how we can save the lives of people. Then we came up with the oxygen langar initiative for people who were dying due to the lack of oxygen. At 11:30 pm we did a trial and uploaded a video on social media about the service. Within no time over 200-300 cars lined up with patients desperate for oxygen. That is how oxygen langar started,” recounts Gurpreet Singh ‘Rummy’, founder of Khalsa Help and president of the gurdwara committee.

Trying to cope with the rush of people desperate for oxygen, and to save as many lives as possible, Khalsa Help International put in place pipelines which would allow at least 16-20 people to be given oxygen from a single cylinder at once. Within the day, several similar pipelines were set up and more cylinders and vehicles were organised to ensure continuous refill of cylinders. “Initially, we used to provide oxygen to 60-70 people per day. But at this facility, we were able to provide oxygen round the clock. Till now we saved the lives of at least 12,000 people who were so critical that if oxygen was not given to them at in 5-10 minutes, they would not have been able to make it,” Rummy tells Media India Group.

He adds that his organisation has now taken the next step and opened a temporary Covid-19 Care Hospital again in Ghaziabad, where besides regular supply of oxygen, hospital beds, food and basic medical care is provided to the patients.

Apart from oxygen, the care centre also provides services like CT scan and X-ray (MIG photos/Varsha Singh)

“We started this hospital for two reasons. One is that it is more comfortable for people to get oxygen when they are lying down indoors rather than sitting in their vehicles or on the roadside. Secondly, many people do not have money to go to hospitals and there is no place in the hospitals. So, we started this 150 bed hospital that is completely free of cost. All our ambulances are available with oxygen. We have eight ambulances, four hearses and everything else that is required to fight Covid-19, we can provide it to people. We have our team of doctors and as you can see there are patients in the hospital who didn’t have to pay a single penny. We are providing everything from CT scan to X-ray,” he says.

Boon for underprivileged

Though it has been operational only for three days, the hospital has come as a life-saver for dozens of people, especially those from the underprivileged sections of the society who cannot afford private hospitals. Rummy says that in three days, the hospital has taken care of about 200 patients, of which about 75 had left after getting stabilised and the rest are being provided the necessary care. Doctors at the hospital say that once their condition stabilises and don’t need continuous medical supervision, most patients are advised to continue the treatment at home, clearing way for others who may need the beds more.

Indeed, for the patients and their families, this hospital has come as god-sent boon and are grateful to Rummy and his team. Pushpa brought her husband Premchand, a Covid-19 patient, here for treatment. “My husband’s fever was not going down. I took him to several private hospitals but none of them took him as they said he needs oxygen. So somehow I got to know about the Gurdwara and then they brought us here. Now he is fine,” says Pushpa whose husband works as a daily wage worker.

Over 200 persons have already benefitted from the Covid-19 care centre (MIG photos/Varsha Singh)

Sheeshpal Prajapati, who is from Ghaziabad and owns a tea stall, also brought his ailing wife to this hospital. Just like Pushpa, he too went to several private hospitals but due to shortage of oxygen couldn’t get her admitted anywhere. “I tried to find oxygen for my wife at many places but I could not get it anywhere. Then I saw a video on YouTube about the oxygen langar facility. As I did not have a vehicle, I called them and they sent an ambulance to our house and brought her here. She is fine now. I am waiting for her to be a little better and then I can take her home. In this situation, I cannot take her anywhere as I don’t have any money. None of the private or government hospitals helped me. This hospital is my only hope now,” says Prajapati.

Humble origins

The wide-range of well-organised activities that Khalsa Help International has mounted and run during the pandemic could make one believe that it is a very old and established organisation. However, Gurpreet Singh says that the NGO is barely a year old as it was founded in March last year, in response to the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic in India. Yet, the group mounted its capacity and team rather rapidly to be able to help a large number of underprivileged people even during the first wave. He says that the NGO distributed over 200 tonnes of food ration to those who had lost their jobs and could not go back home due to the nationwide lockdown last year. “Next we put up the centres where we started testing. We have tested 250,000 people till now free of cost. A team of doctors stays with us. And we helped around 2,500 people after they tested positive in the first wave,” he says.

A disabled patient getting treatment for Covid-19 (MIG photos/Varsha Singh)

When the second wave began and hospitals ran out of oxygen, Khalsa Help International got into the act and launched the oxygen-langar, an activity that has made news around the world, and helped thousands gasping for breath. It attracted patients, not just from Delhi or Ghaziabad, but many also travelled hundreds of km to get a breath of the precious commodity. Rummy says people came here from all over, including Lucknow, that is over 500 km away. Besides that patients have been brought from Kanpur, Muzzafarnagar, Jaipur, Punjab. “There is no place within 400-500 km range from here that people have not arrived from. Everywhere, the situation was chaotic, but at the Indirapuram Gurdwara the oxygen langar services were on without a break, so people sought help from there and we could save many lives. We kept the centre open for 17-8 days round the clock and we didn’t break the chain of oxygen supply,” he recounts, adding that his team was out at various places to ensure that empty cylinders were refilled urgently and brought back for use. Some teams had to travel as far as Jalandhar in Punjab, about 400 km away, to get a refill.

Like many other success stories, Khalsa Help International also began on a very modest scale with less than INR 100,000 in the kitty. Rummy says that commitment of the team and the work done by them has since allowed them to scale up their activity dramatically and yet they have not had to worry about finances ever.

The centre also has facilities to accommodate family members of patients (MIG photos/Varsha Singh)

“If you start a good work people automatically start helping you. The day we started this work, we had only INR 50,000 to 100,000 with our organisation. After that our daily expenses went to INR 1 million to 1.2 million. We just could not figure out how the money flowed in and from where. Every person who was able to help us, offered help. Even from far off places like America, Canada, Germany, England, we got help from everywhere. That is how we could succeed in doing our work. That is how we gathered the strength to do something this big,” says Rummy.

Enthused by the success and the extent to which the intervention was needed, Gurpreet Singh Rummy says that now his organisation is planning to set up a permanent hospital for Covid-19 patients. He says that proposal has been submitted to the Uttar Pradesh government and hopes that work can start soon on the project which will also offer complete medical, free of cost to everyone. From oxygen langar, now Khalsa Help International hopes to start ‘health langar’ to restore the battered people of India back to good health.

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