In 3 Days, Kashmir Charity Athrout Converts Haj House Into A 100-Bed Covid Centre

by Mufti Islah

SRINAGAR: In view of the covid-19 surge, Kashmir’s leading philanthropic organisation, Athrout, has set up a 100-bed Covid facility in a record three days’ time. Athrout collaborated with the Srinagar administration, and converted the Haj house building into a spacious 100- bed plus Covid facility in Srinagar, almost in tune with a new practice of using religious places like mosques, temples and gurudwaras for rendering services to Corona-afflicted population.

Kashmir’s major charity, the Athrout handing over six high-value ventilators to the management of Chest Disease Hospital in Srinagar in April. The hospital was the first designed Covid-19 Hospital. Pic: Special arrangement

Athrout collaborated with the Srinagar administration, and converted the vast Haj house building into a neat and spacious 100- bed plus Covid facility in Srinagar — almost in tune with a new practice of using religious places like mosques, temples and gurudwaras for rendering services to Corona-afflicted population.

This is for the first time in Kashmir that a charitable organisation has committed a decent Covid facility with 28 high- flow oxygen beds with a 15 to 20 LPM (litres per minute) capacity within the city radius. Besides 75 beds reliant on oxygen concentrators that supply 5 LPM to 10 LPM of oxygen are kept ready in as many as six halls of the building.

“Looking at the surge in Covid cases in Srinagar, we thought it is best to be prepared for the worst case scenario. I would be more happy if these beds are not used at all but we cannot be complacent,” Bashir Nadvi, chairman of Kashmir Athrout, told News 18.

The Atrout has been a saviour of sorts in almost every natural and other calamities that has hit Kashmir in the last many years. Be it the earthquake, floods, political disturbances and now Covid, this voluntary group has brought solace during the worst times of crisis.

Like last year, it has pledged to fight Covid in a zone where the virus has proliferated manifold.

Mukhtar Ahmad Athrout, who died of Covid-19 recently.

On Monday, Jammu and Kashmir clocked 4,650 and Srinagar 1,311 fresh Covid cases, single-day peak for both since the pandemic broke out. The active cases progressed to 37,000 in J&K, 11,000 in Srinagar alone which has a population of 12 lakh to 13 lakh people.

Looking at the spike, many doctors and experts are anticipating shortage of beds. The only silver lining as of now is that Kashmir is comfortable with oxygen supply since all leading hospitals have their own oxygen generation plants.

In contrast, the Jammu region has seen shortage for oxygen and in one incident, four people died allegedly for want of oxygen at a private hospital. The government has now instituted an inquiry to find out if the allegations levelled by the families are correct or the hospital management bungled technically to provide oxygen to the four critical patients.

“The visuals of people panting for oxygen, lying in the streets of Delhi and other cities kept playing in my head for days. I began thinking of Srinagar and discussed with our members that we should be prepared than be sorry. And so our team started from the scratch,” said Nadvi, sounding relaxed on Tuesday afternoon after his team completed a seemingly impossible task.

Medical professionals busy counselling patients online from the office of the Athrout, one of the key NGOs working on social and medical fronts in Kashmir. This was being done to prevent people from moving out during Covid-19 lockdown. KL Image: Bilal Bahadur

The team Athrout worked against time to set up a huge facility just within three days. “The deputy commissioner, Srinagar, Ajaz Asad sahib gave us tremendous leverage to work. He provided the best support that one could imagine. This could not have happened without him,” added Nadvi, while inspecting one of the halls that had dozens of machines attached to beds. “He (DC) was extremely positive in his intent from the day we met at his office on Saturday,” he said.

In their several rounds of meetings, Asad, a young IAS officer and district magistrate of Srinagar, told senior Athrout members that he would extend all help including space and manpower provided the health facility was ready within the shortest time.

“Once the Haj house building was allotted to us for setting up the facility, we did not waste a minute,” said Bilal Khan, a senior member of Athrout.

“In a very short time, we have set up a very good facility. This is not a wellness centre but a kind of hospital where Covid patients requiring oxygen can be treated,” said Khan. Of course, without the laboratory backup, operation theatre or ICUs, another member chipped in.

On Sunday, when Athrout started work on the project, chairman Nadvi split his team into two groups. One a technical team headed by Khan and another by Abdul Hamid Bhat, a respected businessman and environmentalist, to manage resources. Within a span of three days, the two groups created a 100-bed facility.

Hajj pilgrims collecting their luggage at Haj House Srinagar. KL Image by Bilal Bahadur
Hajj pilgrims collecting their luggage at Haj House Srinagar. KL Image by Bilal Bahadur

“For the 28 beds, we installed an oxygen bank manifold, copper tubings and flowmeters. The modus operandi is simple. We will fill the manifold using bulk oxygen cylinders and the same would be infused to the patient on the bed through the tubings. This is a kind of a hospital set up though it is not an oxygen generation plant. It will help patients who require 15 to 20 LPM,” clarified Khan.

Hamid, meanwhile, raised resources through his vast network and within a day or two, he arranged 30 odd bulk cylinders, electric fitting items, skilled labour to fix it. From its vast bank of 350 oxygen cylinders, Athrout could spare 35 odd oxygen concentrators while the rest have been distributed among Covid patients. The government chipped in with 40 more to set up the 100 plus beds. “It was a race against time but thank God we could do it,” Hamid told News 18.

District Magistrate Asad kept men from various departments ready for advice and help. He personally remained in touch with Athrout and would visit the Haj house daily for suggestions.

Mufti Islah (TV News18)

Nadvi says he does not want to stop at this and would like to move on to his other projects. The Athrout works in the field of education, health and empowerment for disadvantaged sections of society. It runs a state-of-the art dialysis unit for the poor where they are offered free treatments.

By Tuesday evening, Nadvi hopes to hand over the Covid health facility to Asad who in turn would get doctors, paramedics and allied staff from the health department to function from here.

“God forbid if the virus proliferates, we will be able to raise the bed strength to 200 and even 300 within days,” said Nadvi. “I hope and pray such scenario should not visit us,” he sighed.

(Mufti Islah is a senior Srinagar-based journalist works for News 18. The story appeared on the TV’s news website, first.)


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here