For the people of Dharmavaram mandal in Andhra’s Anantapur district, the RDT hospital, run by the Vicente Ferrer Rural Development Trust, was the nearest big, affordable COVID-19 hospital they could turn to for critical COVID-19 patients. But the RDT hospital, along with the Anantapur GGH (government general hospital), have been flooded with COVID-19 patients from across the district in the past few months. To provide healthcare closer to home for severe COVID-19 patients, the people of Dharmavaram have crowdfunded a COVID-19 facility at the town Community Health Centre (CHC). Within a span of nine days, funds worth Rs 20.5 lakh were raised with the contribution of local businessmen, government employees and others, to set up a 30-bed temporary COVID-19 facility with oxygen supply and triaging facility.
Dharmavaram Revenue Divisional Officer (RDO) GR Madhusudhan, who gave the call for crowdfunding by donating a month’s salary to the fund, said that donations have come in from unexpected sources, from an 85-year-old woman who donated Rs 10 to school children who raised Rs 50,000. A big chunk of the funds was donated by municipal and revenue employees, and the silk saree manufacturers and business persons in the town, he said. Dharmavaram is known for its unique handloom silk textiles.
Even as the burden on hospitals in Andhra’s major cities has started to ease compared to the previous few weeks, smaller towns and rural areas like Dharmavaram are continuing to grapple with the pandemic. “After Anantapur Municipal Corporation, Dharmavaram Municipality has the highest population of 1.5 lakh people. In the last two weeks, we saw around 1,450 COVID-19 cases here. Around 150-200 cases are being recorded per day on average. Cases are going down elsewhere, but here we are yet to see a substantial decline. So far, every patient had been turning to RDT, but since the entire district was relying on it, it wasn’t enough. Which is why we wanted to develop our own resource,” said RDO Madhusudhan.
In the first phase, the hospital has been set up with 30 beds, and there are plans to expand it to 50 beds. The beds have been fitted with a central oxygen pipeline and are supported by oxygen cylinders too. Inverters have also been arranged to ensure an uninterrupted power supply. Medical equipment for triaging, including various diagnostic kits and blood clot tests, cell counter machines, etc., have been temporarily donated by a few private hospitals. The COVID-19 care facility is being managed by the CHC medical staff. While Dharmavaram already has one COVID Care Centre with around 300 beds, it is only equipped to treat mild patients and does not have oxygen support.