KALABURAGI: The face of 72-year-old Saroja Madde of Khajuri village, in Aland taluk, lights up every time she talks about the ‘Oxy Bus’ (oxygen equipped bus), introduced as saviours in rural areas by Kalyana Karnataka Road Transport Corporation (KKRTC), formerly known as Northeast Karnataka Road Transport Corporation.
In May, Madde tested positive for the Covid-19 virus. Soon after, she complained of breathlessness and was in dire need of oxygen support. The doctor at Khajuri primary health care centre advised her to visit Omarga (25 km from Khajuri) in Maharashtra for better treatment.
Considering the prevailing situation, Madde’s family found itself in a fix. Luckily, a village doctor informed them about the Oxy Bus. She was rushed to the spot where the bus was stationed. “I was given oxygen in the Oxy Bus for two hours each for two days, and this helped stabilise my condition,” says Madde.
In April-May, when India was grappling with the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic and was dealing with an acute shortage of medical oxygen, KKRTC decided to swing into action and convert nine of its buses into mobile fever clinics and swab collection centres. The mobile centres were pressed into service in Bidar, Yadgir, and Ballari divisions.
Kurma Rao, managing director at KKRTC, who was instrumental in launching mobile clinics and swab centres, told TNSE that the transport corporation had deployed health staffers in each of the buses, which were equipped with the equipment to assist, test and treat people with Covid symptoms. Claiming that the initiative was highly appreciated by the people, Rao said KKRTC is the first public transport company to convert buses into mobile hospitals and vaccination centres.
Supporting Rao’s claim, Yallabi (45) of Zalaki village, said that if it hadn’t been for KKRTC’s mobile clinic, she wouldn’t have survived. Narrating her plight, Yallabi said that in May, when she complained of sudden breathlessness and giddiness, the doctor advised her to get admitted in a hospital equipped with oxygenated beds.
“Considering the situation then, the doctor told my family it would be difficult to get oxygenated beds in hospitals in Kalaburagi, as they were fully occupied by Covid patients. It was then that we learned about the Oxy Bus stationed in our village to provide treatment on the spot,” says Yallabi.
With the surge in Covid-19 cases in different parts of the state, these mobile bus clinics travelled to the interiors of Kalaburagi, Koppal and Raichur districts to treat patients. For this, 46 drivers were trained how to handle and transport liquid oxygen-laden tankers from Jindal Steel Factory in Ballari to different parts of the state, including Bengaluru, Mysuru, Shivamogga, Mangaluru, Kalaburagi and Vijayapura.
Jainulla, one of the drivers selected to drive the tankers, said the pandemic has etched some special moments in his life “which will last forever”. “Those memories will have a lasting impact as I got the opportunity to serve the needy people of Doddaballapur,” he said.
Jainulla and his co-driver, Jeetendra, would drive the tankers “with utmost care”. “It usually takes eight hours to reach Bengaluru from Ballari, however, it took us 12 hours to drive to the city, carrying oxygen-laden trollies,” he adds.
Apart from initiating mobile clinics, KKRTC stepped up its services and introduced mobile toilets and breastfeeding cabins exclusively for women. In a bid to mitigate the effect of the pandemic and to inculcate the reading habit, the corporation, with an investment of Rs 3.10 lakhs, converted an old bus into a mobile library.
CLINIC ON WHEELS
6,018 people were vaccinated in mobile vaccination centres in Kalaburagi district
1,807 people were tested in a mobile fever clinic
8,000 people gave swabs
2,000 people were tested for fever in a mobile swab collection and fever clinic in Yadgir district