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Oxygen On Wheels — an out of the box solution to fight Covid-19 takes off

The Oxygen On Wheels bus offered by the Jain International Trade Organisation inaugurated in Kolkata

Faced with the lack of oxygen supply and hospital beds due to the onslaught of the second surge of Covid-19 pandemic, many public and private sector undertakings, and not for profit and non-governmental organisations have come forward to plug the gap.

In Kolkata since May 17, buses with oxygen concentrators have been parked outside major State hospitals. These play a vital role of serving as the units for the first line of treatment for the Coronavirus affected patients, experiencing respiratory problems, till such time as they get hospital beds.

Called Oxygen On Wheels, these six buses have been offered by the Jain International Trade Organisation (JITO). Inaugurated by the State’s Chief Secretary, Alapan Bandyopadhyay, these buses are equipped with four oxygen concentrators and have fans, mobile charging points and most importantly redesigned seats to enable patients to be comfortable.

Waiting for admission in the hospital the patients are given oxygen by the hospital health technician while their entire admission is taken care of by the hospital staff. The power required to man the bus is also supplied by the hospital.

Referring to this initiative, Rajesh Bhutoria, Chairman of JITO Kolkata Chapter said: “We believe that this is the time for the entire community to come together as one and support the activities of the Government in any way possible. We are all in this fight against Covid-19 together. We look forward to undertaking many more initiatives to save precious lives.”

BMTC initiative

Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation too had swung into action as it provided relief to Covid-19 patients through Oxygen On Wheels bus last week outside city’s Victoria Hospital.

BMTC tied up with different NGOs, including Foundation India, to provide free oxygen in a modified non-air conditioned bus. Equipped with two concentrators and four cylinders, six patients can be attended to at one time.

Oxygen On Wheels inaugurated in Bengaluru (Pic: Courtesy Twitter/@tsuvik)

It is stationed from 10.30 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily with people getting admitted on first-come-first-served basis by booking on 97310-97191.

While cautioning that these buses should not be viewed as an alternative to hospital bed, many health experts feel that such a service is the need of the hour for patients in the initial period when there is difficulty in getting an oxygen bed.

To cater to areas near Bengaluru, BMTC also extended this facility to areas close to Bengaluru. These include Chikkamagaluru, Chikkaballapur and Jigani. Following BMTC’s initiative, the Karnataka State Road Corporation launched two oxygen buses. Two more buses in Chitradurga and Chickballapur too are in planning.

In fact the State road transport corporations are willing to provide more Oxygen On Wheels services in all districts. They need NGOs and private groups to sponsor oxygen concentrators and equipment required for providing oxygen inside buses.

A patient gets oxygen in the BMTC Oxygen On Wheels bus (Pic: Courtesy Twitter/@tsuvik)

This was stated by the Deputy Chief Minister and Transport Minister Laxman Savadi. He also mentioned in a release that each bus can provide oxygen for 610 patients who are waiting for a hospital bed. He had added that a Hyderabad-based NGO was keen to help and join hands with the road transport corporations.

School launches free oxygen buses

Contributing their effort to fight the Coronavirus, the Greenwood High International School, in association with Maharaja Agrasen Hospital, has launched five buses that will provide free oxygen to people.

Placed outside city hospitals, each bus can accommodate 12 patients at a time.

In order to use the free facility, a patient has to provide a doctor’s prescription or RTPCR report and a copy of his or her Aadhaar card. It is the attendant of the patient who is expected to provide these details, said Dr Satish Jain, President of Maharaja Agrasen Hospital to the Express News Service.

While the school provided the bus and shared internal equipment cost too with the hospital such as gas cylinder, mask nasal cannula etc, all the medical assistance will be provided by the hospital.

The initiative was inaugurated by the State Revenue Minister, R Ashoka.

Each patient will be able to use the oxygen for two hours and will also be given a free nasal cannula for the oxygen flow to be connected to the flow meter and regulator. Based on the success of this drive, 10 more buses are planned.

Those wishing to avail of the facility can call the hospital’s administration at 09620304864.

Tamil Nadu’s effort to help waiting patients

Like Karnataka, Tamil Nadu too is struggling with patients and their relatives trying to find beds. Many patients who reach hospitals, unable to get beds are seen gasping for air.

Before Kolkata, the Jain International Trade Organization had stepped in Chennai to introduce Oxygen on Wheels.

With many school buses not being used at present, were modified to accommodate six patients each and were equipped with six oxygen concentrators and cylinders to house patients waiting outside hospitals.

Four busses had been rolled out initially with plans for increasing the strength to 20 later. Based on the success of their initiative JITO wants to expand across Tamil Nadu.

Meanwhile, CII-Young Indians teamed up with Sakthi Nursing Home, Shiv Niketan School, and Tiruppur Riders Club, to launch Oxygen Bus for Covid-19 patients free of cost in Tiruppur.

Talking about their initiative, CII-Young Indians (Covid Wing) Coordinator said: “When we heard about scarcity of oxygen cylinders for Covid-19 patients, we decided to resolve the situation. With the support of other members from Tiruppur Riders Club, the entire vehicle was renovated to suit the purpose and we were able to create 5 seats for Covid patients. The entire cost will be borne by these organisations.”

More buses are planned and they will be stationed in front of the medical facilities offering Covid care to provide relief to patients waiting for the beds. One nurse and two volunteers with the bus driver will be present in the bus.

Andhra Pradesh ambulances

In the campus of the District Government Hospital (DGH) in Rajamahendravaram city in East Godavari district, two Oxygen On Wheels ambulances have been stationed to accommodate patients in need of critical care treatment for Covid-19.

With the modification of these two 35-seater Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation (APSRTC) vehicles, additional bedding facility on the DGH campus has been created. These ambulances are monitored by the DGH staff.

Talking about this enterprise with The Hindu, the Rajamahendravaram Member of Parliament, Margani Bharat said “The additional temporary critical care facility has been minimising the duration of long wait of COVID-19 patients for admission to the DGH. The ambulances have come to the rescue of many lives in the city. We are able to ensure a life-saving treatment in the ‘Oxygen on Wheels’ ambulances and each is designed to accommodate at least six patients at a stretch. The patients will be shifted to the hospital once beds are vacant.”

The MP added that the model will be shared with the State Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy after a few days in order to replicate the model in the rest of the State. In the coming days, local NGOs would be roped into its operation.

APSRTC initiative to provide oxygen to waiting patients in hospital (Pic: Courtesy Twitter/@newindianexpress.com)

While these efforts are important it must be realised that these do not guarantee treatment. According to Foundation India Secretary, Sanjay Gupta, the service is just timely help till the patients find an oxygen bed. Agreeing with him, Dr Vishal Rao, member, expert committee, Covid Task Force, Government of India, remarked: “This is a good make-shift solution till the patient gets a bed. But such services should tie up with hospitals, or the government should facilitate this.”