As MP’s Badnagar tehsil battled pandemic, local bus stand converted into Covid care centre

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In April 2021, at the height of the second wave of the pandemic, authorities in Badnagar, a tehsil in Madhya Pradesh’s Ujjain district began to worry. Cases of Covid-19 were climbing steadily, oxygen was in short supply and the Civil Hospital had run out of beds.

This is when the administration stepped in. And, almost overnight, a temporary, 70-bed Covid care centre came up at an unlikely location – the local Badnagar Nagar Palika bus stand.

“There wasn’t much time to plan…people were dying, there were queues outside crematoriums. But then, everybody came together – the administration, municipal officers, the general public and politicians – to set up the centre,” said Dr Yogesh Bharsat, a doctor by training and then the sub-divisional magistrate of Badnagar who led efforts to set up the centre.

Speaking of the facility, Asheesh Singh, District Collector, Ujjain, told The Indian Express that the facility was set up in about five days at a community hall at the bus stand, with donations and contributions worth Rs 90 lakh, including beds and medical equipment, pouring in from residents and organisations. The district administration helped with medicines, IV fluids, oxygen cylinders and oxygen concentrators.

Collector Singh is among the 19 winners of The Indian Express Excellence in Governance Awards for 2020 and 2021. The biennial awards celebrate the finest work done by District Magistrates, women and men considered the foot-soldiers of governance as they script change that touches the lives of people across the country.

The centre had separate areas for men and women, and a space was hived off for an ‘ICU’ with four beds. A ‘recovery room’, with about 20 beds, was set up in a nearby building for patients who were stable, but not ready to be discharged.

Dr Suyash Shrivastava, a doctor at the Civil Hospital, Badnagar, who was part of the team that managed the Covid centre, recalls that the second wave was a difficult time for residents. “The situation was bad and we were not prepared. Oxygen was a problem… The Civil Hospital (the only government facility in the tehsil for Covid patients) had 70 beds, but since we also handled the maternity patient load, it was difficult to handle Covid patients along with expectant mothers,” he said.

This meant that the Civil Hospital couldn’t spare more than five beds for Covid patients, that too only for emergency cases and stabilisation of patients. Patients who tested positive were referred to the District Hospital in Ujjain, nearly 50 km away. Between April and June 2021, 383 patients availed of facilities at the centre.

When cases of mucormycosis began to be reported in other parts of the country, four beds were set aside at the facility to respond to this condition.

Shrivastava and Bharsat were part of the team that managed the Covid centre, along with 20 nurses drawn from the Civil Hospital and other primary and community health centres in Badnagar.

For the residents of Badnagar, who lost friends and relatives to Covid, the facility at the bus stand came as a blessing. Vishram, 51, who works as a driver in Badnagar, said, “I lost some friends to Covid. The situation here was very bad. I had to be admitted to the centre for around 11 days. We knew that beds were not available anywhere else and came straight to the centre for admission.”

Patients below the poverty line were treated free of cost at the facility while others were charged at 25 per cent of the fee of private hospitals. With Covid cases on the retreat, the facility reverted to its original form – as the Badnagar Nagar Palika bus stand. However, beds, oxygen cylinders, concentrators, BiPAP machines and boards indicating the number of beds occupied still lie at the community centre, along with an ambulance parked outside the building – serving as reminders of how Badnagar fought off the virus.