Doctors Across the Globe Mobilizes Help or Indian Colleagues Divested with COVID-19 Surge
Physicians from across the world are coming together to mobilize help for their colleagues in India, where more than 400,000 new cases of COVID-19 have been reported daily for the past 2 weeks. Some are working hotlines and disseminating critical public health information; others are crowdfunding for equipment, training young doctors, or supporting vaccine registration.
In the last 2 weeks, an average of 140 people have died of COVID-19 each hour in India, according to data from the Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 dashboard. Hospitals are overwhelmed, oxygen is scarce, and healthcare workers are enduring extreme conditions.
Blame for the surge has been attributed to several factors, including lack of vaccines, the emergence of new viral variants, and the Indian government’s poor planning and lifting of social distancing policies too soon.
Whatever the cause, global health experts say quelling the outbreak in India is a matter of global importance. If we don’t subdue it, “we risk a forever pandemic with long-term cycles of lockdowns, economic damage, and constant fear,” Madhukar Pai, MD, PhD, an epidemiologist at McGill University, Montreal, Canada, writes in a Washington Post opinion piece.
For most doctors, helping is about much more than epidemiology. “Many of us have family and friends there and it’s personal — it’s absolutely personal,” said Gita Sinha, MD, MPH, an infectious disease specialist and CEO of Almora Health Strategies in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, who is volunteering with the recently formed group India COVID SOS.
Some healthcare workers are leveraging their networks and social media platforms to ask for donations to provide vital medical equipment. A group of UK physicians, first reported on by The Guardian , is raising funds to purchase and ship oxygen concentrators to India, and the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin has launched a similar effort. The Bay Area branch of India COVID SOS is collecting donated cPAP/BiPAP machines, which can be converted to respirators, to send.
Other doctors and organizations are recruiting volunteers to staff telehealth rotations. The British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (BAPIO) has established a telehealth project that will allow physicians in the UK to do virtual ward rounds, read and report on imaging scans and pathology tests, and conduct telehealth visits with patients in their homes to relieve some of the pressure on their Indian colleagues.
In the US, Priya Jaisinghani, MD, an endocrinology fellow at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City, is working with 25 other volunteers from various time zones to staff a crisis hotline. For Jaisinghani, the crisis became very real when dozens of people she knew across New Delhi and Bombay contracted COVID-19 and began calling her because they couldn’t access their doctors or get necessities like medication and oxygen. After helping her family, she connected with some others in India and they began collaborating to establish the hotline and help more people.