Citizen driven ‘Oxyzone’ steps up to provide free Oxygen to Covid patients in Kolkata
Kolkata/IBNS: Amidst widespread shortage and a growing prices of medical oxygen in Kolkata, a citizen-led non-profit initiative by Prameya Foundation, known as ‘Oxyzone,’ has stepped forward to ensure availability of free oxygen to patients gasping for air.
Founded with the help of donations from ordinary citizens from different walks of life, this flagship Covid second wave response initiative by the foundation has already set up five centres, the much-hailed ‘24x7 Breathing Spaces’ in Kolkata, where patients can come and avail oxygen for free.
Availability of medical oxygen has been one of the key concerns during the devastating Covid second wave, making the difference between life and death.
It has been particularly challenging for Covid patients suffering from dropping SPO2 levels to arrange for oxygen without having to get admitted to hospitals. Black marketing has resulted in unprecedented surge in oxygen prices and even those able to pay a high premium have been scouting for oxygen cylinders, concentrators and allied equipment as they are in acute shortage.
At present ‘Oxyzone’ is operational in five locations – Sodepur, Salt Lake, Jadavpur, two in Khidderpore and plans are afloat to extend the service to more localities, including Bhowanipore, which is getting rolled out next. The initiative has been entirely funded by donations from citizens and NRIs. Funding is key to the success of the initiative since setting up Centres is a costly affair – each Centre requires anywhere between Rs 1 - 2 lakhs to be set up with all necessary facilities like bed, Oxygen, medical kits, etc.
Each Centre can cater to free oxygen requirements of nearly ten patients a day. Social media has been the primary source for Oxyzone’s funding network so far with its Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/Oxyzone-107650771498531) giving it some reach. However, the support is never enough given the enormity of the crisis, says Gargi.
“It has been a herculean collective effort to get Oxyzone up and running with the help of so many well-wishers, yet there is so much more we can do in saving more precious lives if the support continues to pour in. Oxygen has nearly become unaffordable and scarce and it is our mission to ensure that the city of Kolkata continues to breathe, as oxygen, is and should always be free,” said Gargi Bhattacharya, one of the founding members of Oxyzone.
"Bhattacharya is the trustee of Prameya Foundation, whose Managing Trustee, Mukut Biswas, has taken charge of operations of all the centres. It is the need of the hour. The Covid second wave has struck with the force of a disaster and under these circumstances, we knew we had to do something,” says Biswas.
The five Oxyzone centres have cumulatively benefited several patients so far. “Oxyzone has been a life saver for my mother as they were the only avenues we could find at a time of need in the middle of the night at 1 am. The volunteer ensured that we got free oxygen at home when nothing else was available,” said Pinak Sarkar, a resident of Behala. The present lockdown is, however, a challenge and authority’s support in the movement of volunteers would be key.
Support from volunteers has been enormous. At present, nearly twenty citizens from all walks of life – students, professionals, doctors, nurses have voluntarily devoted their time to Oxyzone besides over 250 donors who have provided financial aid.
Other people initiatives such as Desh o Praan, Echoes Project, Change Initiatives, Help for Hind, Aspire and Glee, Amarjyoti a NJ Non-Profit Corp, Indian Bengali Association of Montreal (IBAM) and Prabaashe Bangali Adda have also joined hands with Prameya Foundation for this noble cause. Aspire and Glee and Change Initiatives are supporting a whole Oxyzone each, in their own capacity, in Jadavpur and Salt Lake respectively.
“While we are trying our best to help people in need, availability of volunteers would always be critical as manning each Centre needs enormous time and effort,” said Debajyoti Chakrabory, one of the many frontline warriors of Oxyzone.
“We definitely need more and more volunteers in the days to come who can support us in whatever capacity to actualise the collective dream of keeping the City of Joy breathing,” said Bhattacharya.