Volunteers step in to screen SOS numbers

As demand for drugs, beds and oxygen rises, overstretched suppliers dodging calls for help

As the raging second wave of COVID-19 pandemic creates unprecedented demands on healthcare workers and medical infrastructure, it is social media and citizens who bringing an order to the chaos using all resources at their disposal.

While the first few days saw creation of various lists to help patients and their relatives, it is now individual voluntary efforts that are coming to people’s rescue in this hour of crisis.

“There are a lot of lists floating around for oxygen, Tocilizumab, plasma donors and Remdesivir stockists. Patients and their relatives are getting frustrated and distraught when the phone numbers don’t work. I thought of volunteers who would do the basic calling and make the connection needed for delivery,” says Raj Janagam, an IT professional, who roped in 20 volunteers to make the calls and network to help caregivers and patients in the city.

Verified database

At the other end of the spectrum is Sugandh Rakha, another IT professional, who has created a database ‘hydcovid.com’ that has a string of verified numbers and contacts for medical needs of COVID patients. Another resource set-up to help citizens deal with the overwhelming demand for medical information is ‘hydcovidresources.com’.

As the demand for drugs, beds and oxygen is growing, many of the suppliers are unable to meet the demand and are keeping their phones switched off or not answering calls. “The supply has become very dynamic. An oxygen cylinder supplier may have a dozen oxygen cylinders at 12 p.m. but by 1 p.m., he might exhaust his stock and would have to go to get fresh stock,” says Mr. Janagam whose volunteers hand-hold patients and their relatives till their needs are met. The need for volunteers screening the numbers has increased as a few scammers are circulating lists of phone numbers with the aim of bilking patients and their relatives.

A few WhatsApp groups have also morphed into volunteers crosschecking numbers before sharing them with patients or their attenders.

But the biggest resource that has become a lifeline for citizens is the micro-blogging site Twitter which is connecting people in real time as the calls for help are rising by the minute.

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