On day 1, Delhi’s Rakabganj Sahib gurdwara admits 60 patients to its Covid facility

On the first day of its operations, the 400-bed Covid facility at Delhi’s Rakabganj Sahib Gurdwara admitted 60 people after facing some hiccups in setting up services. The Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) performed an ‘ardaas’ and handed over the facility to doctors at 11.30 am, and patients were admitted around three hours later.

Families, meanwhile, lined up outside hoping for a bed. At 1.15 pm, Abhay, who works as an export manager in a private firm, reached with his 72-year-old mother Susheela Singh whose oxygen had dropped to 84%. After waiting for a few hours, Susheela was admitted to the facility around 4 pm but was later shifted to Lok Nayak hospital when her condition worsened. “My wife, daughter and I are also Covid positive,” said Abhay.

Others were luckier in finding space at the facility, which they said is a boon given how hard it is finding an oxygen bed in the capital amid the current Covid surge.

Raj Singh (52), a shopkeeper from Rohini, brought his brother in an auto around 3 pm. Volunteers at the facility immediately took them to a triaging area and later shifted them to the “red zone”, also called the main facility. “I had lost all hope but luck got me here. My brother, Kartar Singh, tested positive three days ago. He was not able to walk and had difficulty breathing. We were scared and tried to admit him at 5 hospitals but there were no beds. The oximeter wasn’t working today and Kartar said he is not able to breathe. I tried to get an ambulance but they asked for Rs 20,000. I then booked an auto and came here. Luckily, they took my brother in. His oxygen level is now 85%. His wife and daughter are under home quarantine,” he said.

DSGMC members and volunteers said they faced some challenges to begin with, but started taking in patients after 3 pm. Inderjeet Singh Monty, chairperson of the Religious Propagation Committee, was handling operations at the center. He said, “At present, the facility can’t support patients with oxygen saturation levels below 85%. Our doctors will decide these things but we will help patients get admission elsewhere.”

“Things will get smoother in a few days,” said DSGMC president Manjinder Singh Sirsa.

A hall at the gurdwara has been converted into the Covid facility, with 400 oxygen beds and four ICU beds. Each bed has an oxygen concentrator next to it. Dr Harmeet Singh, a medical advisor at the facility, said they have 50 doctors from Lok Nayak and NGOs. “We received donations from London, UK, Singapore and the US for concentrators. We hope to serve everyone,” said the doctor.

Portable washrooms have been set up for patients and doctors. The DSGMC has also provided doctors with rooms so they can stay close to the facility.

Rajinder Singh, a committee member, said they made all arrangements in the last three days: “We have over 150 nurses and additional 200 volunteers on the ground. We will try and soon admit critical patients to our ICU. We have doctors from international NGOs who are ready to work for us for free.” As patients started to come in, phone lines kept ringing for admissions, referral procedure, and treatment process. The facility has five helplines, numbers of which are on the DSGMC website.

At a counter, a young volunteer named Gurjot (20) sat with his father and noted down names of all patients. “We are supposed to ask patients about their saturation level and co-morbidities. My father is helping me and we’ve made around 30 entries in the last three hours. There are a lot of patients who are critical… we are sending them to nearby hospitals. I want to work with my father at the gurdwara and serve people. Last week, we also helped farmers at Singhu border with meals. My mother is also a member of DSGMC and will help prepare meals for patients.”

Staff at the facility said all meals will be provided by them as langar but it won’t have the regular items. “We are making sure patients eat 3-4 types of fruits in a day. All meals are prescribed by doctors and we are following those,” said Monty.