Madurai Was Able to Prepare for COVID Second Wave. Why Can't India Say the Same?

I take pride as a people's representative in thanking all those who made Madurai's increased oxygen storage capacity possible. Dear Union minister Harshvardhan, is there anyone you can thank now?

Last year, during the first wave of COVID-19, the country as a whole was facing an enormous crisis. At Madurai, we were constantly busy – myself, the district collector, hospital dean and district special officer. We held discussions, we locked horns with each other, agreed and disagreed on many points, yet we were essentially working night and day with a single focus – handling the pandemic .

We sped up our work when the pandemic became worse in Madurai. I complained to the state’s chief secretary about the lack of cooperation from the Madurai district special official. Convinced by my arguments, the chief secretary replaced him.

When I was informed that Dr Chandramohan, IAS, was taking over as the new officer, I spoke to him over the phone. He was in Madurai the next day. I met him at the guest house and handed him a long list of things that needed to be done in Madurai. He was on job almost immediately.

Last July, the Rajaji Hospital in Madurai had a 6,000-litre storage facility for liquid oxygen. This was sufficient only to provide for 400 beds. We urged the official to prioritise increasing storage. Dr Chandramohan and district collector Dr Vinay realised its importance and started acting on it. We worked in our own ways on obtaining the necessary permissions. Work was fully on.

As a result, the storage facility of liquid oxygen in Rajaji Hospital was increased to 20,000 litres from 6,000 litres by July and August. This would mean an additional 700 beds could have access to oxygen. Totally, the facility could provide for 1,100 beds .

The hospital in Thopur had a cylinder that provided for 30 beds. A new facility was set up and an additional 130 beds were able to access oxygen.

Dr Chandramohan, S. Venkatesan and Dr Vinay. Photo: Twitter/S. Venkatesan

It was not an easy road. We worked through a full lockdown. I am eternally thankful for Dr Chandramohan and Dr Vinay for their commitment and dedication, in bringing the resources and labour from companies in Pondicherry and Bengaluru. I extend my gratitude to them on behalf of the people of Madurai.

While the country suffers from an oxygen shortage, we are confident that Madurai will be able to handle the crisis. We owe this confidence to all the special work we had done during first wave, and the people behind that work. I am thankful to the hospital dean, Dr Sangumani, and Thopur hospital in-charge, Gandhimathi Nathan.

The question I wish to ask the Union health minister now is this: During the first wave of COVID-19, we have increased oxygen storage facilities by four times in a district that has a population of about 30 lakh. We did not beg anyone, steal anything or do anything else beyond our purview. We took into consideration the needs of the people, planned our work and put it into action. I take pride as a people’s representative in thanking all those who made it possible.

Dear Minister Harshvardhan, is there anyone you can thank now?

Translated to English by Kavitha Muralidharan.

S. Venkatesan is the Madurai MP and a member of the CPI(M).