India has just five hospital beds per 10,000 Indians, according to a study by the Human Development Report. The results show that out of 167 countries, India ranks 155 in access to healthcare. No surprise then that there was a mad scramble for expert medical treatment a month into the Coronavirus infection outbreak. Marzy Parakh, a restaurateur and philanthropist, remembers the time all too well. As the founder of a WhatsApp group called Live to Give (LTG), which encourages users to participate and donate to the source directly, he was flooded with enquiries. “The outbreak was too sudden. People were clueless about which hospitals were admitting COVID-19 patients. If they’d call on the hospital number, there would be a long wait.
In April, he launched a helpline by tapping his network of doctors, hospital staff and citizens, with 15 volunteers from LTG. “We divided city hospitals amongst us; one person would be in charge of, around 10. Whenever someone would call in with a request, we would check with our sources and get back in five minutes.” They also had a dedicated team for ambulance bookings. All a caller had to do was send their details, and Parakh’s team would be able to book a bed, an ambulance and even ascertain whether the individual would need a cardiac or a regular ambulance. It did not stop at booking alone. There was a special team handling follow-ups. “We had two groups, one called SOS for hospitalisation, and the other, which we christened, Here To Stay, for follow-ups. The volunteer would call up the hospital every day, speak with the doctor to find out how the patient was faring and then inform the relatives, because there were times when family members weren’t able to get through to the hospital,” he says, adding that they have even facilitated video calls between doctors and family members. Being a 24×7 helpline, Parakh says, they would receive calls in the wee hours. “We had to wake up hospital trustees and doctors to get things done. There were cases when patients needed ventilators and critical care, and you can’t afford a delay.”
<p>With the infection cases in Mumbai under control, the group is now focusing on adopting destitutes. Through the LTG group, they raise funds for their admission in elder care facilities. “Similarly, the volunteers periodically make calls to the person. The family has abandoned them, but there’s a volunteer, who is a stranger, caring for them. It restores your faith in humanity.”