Following an urgent request from the state, Lalit Kiri set up a Covid care centre in a single day

The Bunk House Covid care centre

Lalit Kiri’s story is a rags-to-riches tale of a pharmacist who made it big supplying logistical services to Cairn Energy while it was exploring for oil in Rajasthan’s Barmer, and continued to grow after that. Since the Covid-19 pandemic began, he had been urging the state government to use ‘container bunk houses’—shipping containers that are repurposed as rooms on construction sites—to set up makeshift Covid hospitals in areas without medical infrastructure.

A few weeks ago, state revenue minister Harish Chaudhary sent Kiri an urgent request to set up a Covid care centre at Sambhara, near Pachpadra using these bunkhouses, giving him just 24 hours to do so. Despite the difficulty, Kiri managed to get the job done, putting a hundred people—including plumbers, electricians, landscapers and transporters—as well as equipment like JCBs (diggers) on the job. “A hundred of us did not sleep for 24 hours,” he says. The fully air conditioned and furnished Covid care centre has 10 oxygen beds and 15 regular beds, as well as a 24-hour OPD. The project cost was in the region of Rs 1 crore, with Kiri footing the entire bill. This makeshift hospital has came as a blessing to the villagers in the area, who otherwise had to travel for hours to towns and cities for medical care. At this centre, those who need urgent medical care can get it; those who do not need hospitalisation can be examined by doctors and immediately get the medicines they have been prescribed.

For instance, Devi Kanwar, 68, a resident of Santra village in Barmer district, tested positive on May 5 after having fever for a few days. Worries mounted when her oxygen level began to fall a few days later, since the nearest hospital, at Balotra, 40 km away, had no beds. However, Kiri’s makeshift hospital—Bunk House Covid Care Centre—about 30 km from her village, was inaugurated that very day. Kanwar’s son, a transporter who works in Ahmedabad, rushed her to Bunk House, where she was put on oxygen support. Nine days later, her condition had improved enough for her to no longer need it. “We were taken care of very well here, better than what we could have [expected] in a big hospital,” says Kanwar’s son. Dr Mukesh Rajpurohit, in charge of Bunk House, adds that it has taken some load off bigger hospitals in the area.

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