By Robin Gomes
As India’s healthcare system continues to reel under a raging second wave of Covid-19 infections, a southern Indian Catholic diocese has decided to make its facilities available as temporary hospitals for patients affected by the virus.
Archbishop Peter Machado of Bangalore has promoted the initiative after noting that public and private systems are on the verge of collapse with acute shortages in beds, ICUs, oxygen and medicines.
India on Thursday set another dismal record, as millions in West Bengal state voted despite surging infections and the nation prepared to bring its vaccination rollout to all adults amid snags.
The Health Ministry reported a record 379,257 new infections over the past 24 hours, taking the total to more than 18.3 million, second only the United States. With 3,645 fresh deaths, the total has risen to 204,832. Experts say the actual figures are much higher as government reports are highly under-reported.
Church’s temporary hospitals
"Our initiative to make school facilities available can help alleviate the stress on hospitals in managing the health crisis in the country," Archbishop Machado explained to the Vatican’s Fides news agency.
While expressing appreciation and support for the healthcare workers, both Catholic and non-Catholic, the archbishop said the Church wants to offer every help and support possible.
The archdiocese, as well the network of Catholic hospitals, have also launched a telephone helpline to reach out to the victims and their relatives, providing information on the management of the disease at home and the availability of beds and oxygen.
Archbishop Machado explained that those in need of special care will be directed to any of the temporary Covid assistance centers set up by the archdiocese, thus taking pressure off the hospitals.
The archdiocese has allotted a school for each hospital in order to set up a post-Covid care center. The Azim Premji Foundation, which has been implementing various initiatives to improve educational quality across the country, especially in rural government elementary schools, is offering advice and financial support.
Karnataka state government has imposed a state-wide lockdown from April 27 to May 12. The state on Wednesday reported another single-day record spike in fresh Covid-19 cases, with 39,047 new infections, taking the total close to 1.44 million. With 229 new deaths, the total has crossed the 15,000 mark. Its capital, Bangalore, also notched up new highs.
Christian hospitals reach out
Since last year, Christian hospitals in Bangalore have been at the forefront in the fight against the pandemic.
Father Paul Parathazham, director of the prestigious St John's Medical College Hospital in Bangalore, expressed deep concern over the rapidly growing number of infected people, which is causing enormous stress on medical facilities.
"We should prepare for greater challenges if the current wave does not decrease," he told Fides. He pointed out that the "Christian Mission Hospitals" network has joined the state government in fighting the pandemic using its own resources.
Sister Gracy Thomas, superior at St Martha's Hospital, Bangalore, explained that Christian hospitals are "serving the poorest and most marginalized people and not only in Bangalore but also throughout Karnataka State." (Source: Fides)