Building Mumbai’s Temporary COVID-care Centres is About Giving Back to our City, Says Rahul Gomes

Industry Watch | September 28, 2020 | Interview

Rahul Gomes OMCPL

Leading events and experiential brand solutions company Oaks Management Consultancy Pvt Ltd (OMCPL) has worked hard to build a large set of dedicated COVID-care centres in the country, with the assistance of the Government of Maharashtra. Around 500 workers took four weeks to build five COVID-care centres at RWITC, Mahalaxmi; NSCI Dome, Worli; Richardson & Cruddas, Mulund; RTO Kandarpada and Dahisar Octroi Naka. For this project, 21 air-conditioned hangars across 6,00,000 sqft were used to accommodate 3,600 isolation beds and 110 HDU/ICU beds. 

In an exclusive conversation with EVENTFAQS, Rahul Gomes, Managing Director, OMCPL, talks about the special requirements for the COVID-care centres, challenges faced, safety measures, future initiatives and more.

Mandate for COVID-care centres

“When the COVID-19 pandemic hit Europe, and India began to take note, plans were being made by the Government of Maharashtra, which was on high alert at that time, knowing well that it wouldn’t be long before India and Maharashtra would be hit by the coronavirus. While at that time nobody had any idea that it would grow to these proportions, they did realise that we would not have the facilities to deal with the situation. In view of this, a core team was built to identify solutions to this problem. As a 27-year veteran in Events, I did what most of us would do and thought about what would work and what wouldn’t. We looked at schools, malls, halls and even trains before being ruled out as unfeasible due to the contagious nature of this virus. It was at this time that I approached the core team through our Environmental Minister Aditya Thackeray and discussed the option of putting up German hangars on the line of field hospitals worldwide. Within a week, we were asked to build the first temporaryCOVIDhospital with 400 beds at the Race Course and we put it up in a record 10 days,” said Gomes.

Experience and quantum of work

“It was an enthralling experience and one through which we learnt that most people are yet to know about COVID-19, its protocols, symptoms, hospital planning and flow and so much more. Today, we are proud to be called upon to consult and advise building of hospital centres in cities not only across India but across the world as well. Building these centres was never about profitability or business, but about giving back to our city which has given me everything I have today. It was about standing hand in hand on the frontline with people like Aditya Thackeray and so many more people who came forward, risking their lives on a daily basis,” he added. 

The special requirements

“Each of the centres built had its own set of challenges. For instance, the Mulund 1650-bed facility was to be set up on reinforced concrete at Richardson & Cruddas, and we were vexed due to our inability to even drill through it to lay sewage pipes and such. In the end, professional drilling machines were called in and the job was done. In case of the 120-bed ICU at Kanderpada, which was the first negative pressure ICU built in a hangar, it took us 10 days and a million tests to finally get negative pressure. For a layman, negative pressure can only be achieved when an area is 100% air-proofed and sealed and as most people who use hangars know, that’s near impossible. We had smoke machines outside blowing smoke so that we could stand inside and see where it was entering from and patch it on the go and after 10 days of the most unconventional trials, we were proud to announce that we had achieved -10 negative pressure,” stated Rahul Gomes.

The challenges faced

Speaking about the challenges faced during the situation, Gomes said, “Challenges were aplenty, the first of which was getting partners to come forward to help. Everyone offered to help but was too scared to dedicate teams and manpower and that meant higher costs. As this was a non-profitable venture, our task was to reduce costs but the lockdown and the scare had closed a lot of doors. The moment the news became public, a lot of people called and offered help, but when it required them to get on ground, they backed off. All through this, our teams refused to give up and decided that come what may, we would continue building and helping wherever we were called to.”

Ensuring safety of the team

“Under the guidance of our Executive Director Kinjal Makwana, Operations head Francis Pereira and Client Servicing head Akshata Bhatkar, we worked with a team of nearly 400 people at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and gave Mumbai nearly 3,600 beds across 21 field hospital hangars. All team members followed strict safety protocols at all times, including masks, temperature checks and sanitization, but we were unfortunate that we lost two members of the team due to COVID during this project,” Gomes stated.

Future initiatives of OMCPL

“We are consulted when COVID-care centres need to be built and take pride in the fact that this has become a specialty for us. We don’t know what the future holds, but we are proud to have done our part in providing our city and fellow citizens with these facilities and saving lives,” said Rahul Gomes.

Rahul Gomes, MD, OMCPL, talks about setting up the infrastructure for Mumbai’s temporary COVID-care centres – special requirements, challenges faced, safety measures, losing two team members and more.

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