Indian-American doctors help rescue India from Covid-19 second wave

Free telemedicine by Bihar Jharkhand Association of North America

Diaspora

May 11, 2021

/ By Richa Nigam / New Delhi

Indian-American doctors help rescue India from Covid-19 second wave

BJANA was initially a forum for celebrating festivals & bringing Indian community together in US (Photo Credits: BJANA/Twitter)

A group of Indian-American doctors is providing a healing touch online, to patients in their homeland as the country struggles with the gruesome second wave of the deadly pandemic.

Dr Avinash Gupta and Geeta Gupta have just finished a 10-hour shift at Monmouth Medical Center Southern Campus in New Jersey, United States. Now at home, they are gearing up for a different kind of shift. They will dedicate three hours to treating and talking to Covid-19 patients in their homeland, India.

As India grapples with the relentless biggest Covid-19 surge in the second wave shattering the country’s fragile healthcare system as patients and their relatives struggle to find hospital beds, oxygen, required drugs and medical attention. “There are no hospital beds, no oxygen and a severe lack of basic things. It is a desperate situation in my country,” says Dr Geeta Gupta.

The Guptas, both from Ranchi in Jharkhand, sprang into action after witnessing the horrors in India and launched a helpline on behalf of Indian-American doctors in the United States. “When I saw the condition in India through news channels and talked to a few relatives back home, I, along with my husband, decided to do something to help patients, even if we were living miles away from the country,” she adds further.

“That is when we decided to launch a telemedicine platform to help,” adds Dr Avinash Gupta.

Bihar Jharkhand Association of North America

BJANA is also working to send essential medical supplies to Patna (Photo Credits: BJANA/Twitter)

A team of about 400 doctors in the United States, mainly part of Indian diaspora from Bihar and Jharkhand, have taken it upon themselves to lend a helping hand to Covid-19 patients from back home. Led by the Bihar and Jharkhand Association of North America (BJANA), the doctors are available on ‘Pran Covid-19 Helpline’, an initiative that was started nearly six weeks ago, when, like Dr Avinash and Geeta Gupta, a few others grew concerned about the panic regarding availability of hospital beds, medicines and oxygen in India, especially in the states of Bihar and Jharkhand.

Currently led by Dr Avinash Gupta, who is president of the association, the group uses the internet and apps to provide free healthcare consultancy to those who have tested positive for Covid-19.

“In this way, we thought that the stable patients can manage to not clog the hospitals and leave beds for those who are really sick and in cases of emergency. Talking over the phone or on zoom calls would also help the patient’s relatives as they would not have to run to the overcrowded hospitals for every little help,” Dr Gupta adds.

Dr Gupta, who moved to the US from Ranchi, Jharkhand in 1986, says that it is the first time that they have done something like this. Before this, their organisation, BJANA, was mainly a forum for celebrating festivals and bringing the expat Indian community together.

Paving way for hassle-free treatment

Doctors from BJANA connect to the patients, their family members and answer questions over telephone calls, zoom calls and few other online platforms. They also ask patients to get a few tests done if required, get the results via email and recommend appropriate treatment.

On whether it has been helpful for the patients in India, Dr Gupta says that it has saved lives. “Not all those who are sick right now are Covid-19 patients and not all Covid-19 patients feel very sick physically, in these cases, where patients are suffering from other diseases or ailments, they do not have to struggle and take risks of going to the hospital in this unprecedented time. It saves them from Covid-19 risk, it saves their time and in many cases, a lot of money,” he explains.

“Lack of awareness is one of the major things that the doctors here have noticed. BJANA has tied up with two local NGOs, Aashtha and Asha, in Bihar and Jharkhand respectively, to support this cause. In addition to one-to-one consultancy, BJANA doctors are also organising Zoom sessions to share details of the various aspects of Covid-19,” adds Dr Geeta Gupta.

Support beyond telemedicine

While the initiative began as an outreach to those from Bihar and Jharkhand in late March this year, at present patients from neighbouring states too have been consulting doctors from BJANA and even other doctors from different corners of the US have offered to help.

Dr Ashok Kumar, another member of the association says that BJANA is also working to send essential medical supplies to Patna in Bihar and plans to send help to other cities too.

The helpline team has also been uploading videos in Bhojpuri and Maithili – dialects in Bihar, on social media platforms. Over 500 individual Zoom sessions have been held with patients so far. The helpline’s WhatsApp group, where patients have been uploading reports of blood tests and scans, has doctors addressing hundreds of queries every day.

“So far, BJANA has raised over INR 1 million for Covid-19 relief and has sent 30 oxygen concentrators and several hundred oximeters and face masks to India,” says Dr Kumar.

He further says that even though the situation in India is far worse than normal, the country will recover gradually if more initiatives are taken. “We are doing what we could and India will bounce back in no time if all of us take it upon ourselves to contribute a little in whatever way we can. The US had a bad situation last year and we were hopeless but we are in a better position now. India will recover soon too,” he adds.

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