Coronavirus in Mumbai: Housing societies step in to play role of nanny

Mumbai: The latest change in the civic policy on containment zones states that only the floor of a building, where a case is detected, will be sealed, and not the entire building or the entire wing. But with this change, the BMC has put the onus of tracking the health of residents on the managing committees of housing societies; implicit in this is also the responsibility of monitoring the day-to-day progress of patients in home quarantine, who have been found positive or have returned from hospital after successfully battling the disease.

As a result, managing committees of several housing societies have assumed a larger role by taking proactive measures to ensure the health and well-being of residents. Office-bearers of some of the housing societies located in the western suburbs told The Free Press Journal that they are conducting regular health check-ups for residents and staff. Not just that; in case any irregularity is detected, they feel obliged to inform the local ward office immediately.

"After the new policy came into being, we immediately brought infrared thermometers and have started monitoring the temperature of members of our society," said Samuel Pinto, general secretary of a housing society in Orlem, Malad west. "We have a doctor on board, to whom we send daily updates on an Excel sheet. He goes through the reports every day. And, if he finds cause for concern, he calls the resident for a check-up," said Pinto. Ramping up their efforts, some housing societies have even rented oxygen cylinders, in case there is a patient in the society who might need urgent oxygenation.

"As a housing society, we are trying to stay strong as a community. Keeping in mind the scarcity of ventilators in the city, as a precautionary measure, we have procured oxygen cylinders, so that the patient is not left to fend for himself in an emergency," said Bennet Rebello, a Jogeshwari resident.

"There are several senior citizens in housing societies, who are at great risk of getting infected and suffer from breathlessness. The cylinders have been procured for their safety," explained Rebello. With the state government allowing a number of relaxations in the fourth phase of the lockdown, many societies have begun giving access to helpers and staff inside their premises. Considering most of these domestic helpers come from chawls and congested localities, some societies are also in the process of creating an 'institutional' quarantine facility on the society premises.

"Office-bearers of our society and some others are in talks with the BMC so that we can set up temporary facilities inside our society for the staff, in case they test positive," said Prakash Saroj, an office-bearer of a Kandivli society. "There is a dearth of beds in government hospitals and they live in chawls, where social distancing is a myth. So, we are in talks for setting up this facility within our compounds," Saroj added.

Echoing Saroj's sentiment, another office-bearer, Santosh Iyer, mentioned that these facilities can also benefit family members of patients who have been prescribed home quarantine. "Many asymptomatic patients are advised home quarantine. This poses a risk to the other family members of the patient as well. Thus, if we have a separate facility within our society, it will be an added benefit," said Iyer. "However we need the consent of the residents as well, so this may take some time," Iyer added.

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