St Joseph’s Isolation Care Facility: A refuge for the vulnerable

Mild and asymptomatic COVID-19 patients are advised to self isolate in their homes, while they recover. However, not everyone has the means to self-isolate in their homes. In small houses with just one room or bathroom, isolation is out of the question. A study titled, “Slums and Urban Welfare in Karnataka’s Development” notes that 20% of the city’s population, or around 2.2 million people, live in slums. These individuals often do not have the provisions to isolate themselves. The COVID Care Centres in Bengaluru address this very issue by providing spaces to safely isolate under the care of medical professionals. 

One such facility is housed at St. Joseph’s College, Lalbagh Road, in Bengaluru. The St Joseph’s Covid Isolation Care Facility was set up with the support of students, alumni and a host of other organizations with an intent to provide the marginalized and urban poor with the facilities to isolate in a safe and comfortable environment, free of cost. 

Hasiru Dala, an organization which works with waste pickers and other sanitation workers, is one of the main partners of the initiative, with many from the community they work with utilising the facility. “Wherever the centre is they should feel comfortable with their food, stay and the way they’re treated,” says Nalini Shekhar, Director of Hasiru Dala. “When we had initially tried to send them to isolation centres, we had quite a difficulty because they usually are hotel rooms and the people weren’t used to it. But here we have created that community atmosphere so they feel comfortable.” 

The cafeteria which was converted to a 100-bed isolation facility is open to mild and asymptomatic patients and their families. It offers 24/7 monitoring by doctors and nurses, basic medication, oxygen support, diet based on patients’ unique dietary requirements and activities to engage the patients – children especially – so that they feel at home and the fear of COVID is mitigated. Hasiru Dala organises regular meditation sessions and the volunteers at the facility engage children with toys, creative activities, dance, etc. “The artwork, colourful decor and smiling faces all made it a happy place despite the stark reality of the pandemic,” says Nisha Ninan, an XLRI alumni and one of the organizers of the facility. 

The facility required strong project management and coordination between many partners and volunteers to manage funds, resources, procurement and supply. The St Joseph’s College, Bangalore Jesuit Society and Karnataka Jeevan Anmol (Jesuit Alumni) and Mercy Mission came forward to provide infrastructure, food, oxygen and other resources. HBS Hospitals served as a referral hospital where patients whose conditions were deteriorating could be shifted to. There was also funding from Titan which was used in running the facility. 

The COVID Action Collab lent its support to this facility by linking it to a network of organisations, reaching out to vulnerable populations, sharing information and providing technical support. 

Over 70 patients have been treated at the facility so far and they’ve expressed satisfaction with their time there, sharing their gratitude and appreciation for the care and treatment. Children were especially appreciative of the activities and food, some even reluctant to go home! “In the end it was a wonderful experience working with passionate people to come together and provide an extended home and medical centre at the same time” says Nisha. 

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