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Thursday, May 06, 2021

Ahmedabad: Volunteer groups on social media lend a helping hand

With a streched health system and emergency response helplines clogged, people are reaching out for help on social media where several individuals from various backgrounds have joined hands to help Covid patients.

Written by Ritu Sharma | Ahmedabad |
Updated: April 20, 2021 10:14:20 am
Another small group of 13 volunteers from Ahmedabad under the Gujarat Covid Support (gujaratcovidsupport.org), which is active on Twitter and Instagram, also helps Covid patients, apart from verifying information circulated on social media. (Express Photo by Nirmal Harindran)

On Monday afternoon, Heli Shah, 21, and family members were desperately looking for a hospital bed with oxygen for a 74-year-old Covid-positive family friend in Ahmedabad. With oxygen saturation levels declining beyond 75, the septuagenarian patient required immediate hospitalisation.

“After several private hospitals declined admission, we came across individuals helping out in such cases on social media platforms. I contacted them and was informed of the availability of bed in a private hospital in Gandhinagar,” said Heli Shah, a student at Pandit Deendayal Energy University (PDEU) in Gandhinagar.

In another case, Hemangini Dhimar from Navsari Monday afternoon called out for help on social media seeking plasma donors for her 43-year-old brother in Ahmedabad. After reaching out to volunteers on Twitter, two donors were arranged within a few minutes.

With a streched health system and emergency response helplines clogged, people are reaching out for help on social media where several individuals from various backgrounds have joined hands to help Covid patients.

One such social media platform created by intern doctors and medical students under the name Swastham to help patients in Ahmedabad, Surat, Rajkot and Vadodara, has also started reaching out to individuals from smaller cities like Palanpur and Morbi.

“A pregnant woman in Ahmedabad badly required an oxygen bed on Sunday. We shared the info on our WhatsApp group and confirmed one in a private hospital on Vaishno Devi Circle,” Dr Meet Ghonia from Swatham told The Indian Express.

Founder of Gujarat intern Doctors’ Association (GIDA), Dr Ghonia who is interning in Ahmedabad Civil Hospital, Asarwa, was earlier the national co-convenor of IMA-Medical Students Network. The group caters to those in need of oxygen beds, Remdesivir injections, oxygen cylinders and ventilators.

“Since the network has doctors, we are also providing medical support to patients through video calls in cities where there is a shortage of doctors. With a majority of the students’ parents being doctors who are running hospitals, we are able to provide immediate medical facilities too,” Dr Ghonia said.

Another small group of 13 volunteers from Ahmedabad under the Gujarat Covid Support (gujaratcovidsupport.org), which is active on Twitter and Instagram, also helps Covid patients, apart from verifying information circulated on social media.

“A lot of info is being circulated on social media, of which a lot is fake too. For instance, a list of plasma donors from 2016 is activated now and people are reaching out to those numbers, leading to crucial time getting wasted. We have formed a dedicated team of volunteers to verify the information available on internet, form Google documents and updating these frequently,” said Madhish Parikh, a volunteers of Gujarat Covid Support, adding they seek individuals’ consent before sharing personal details.

Apart from professionals, political leaders and students are also seen offering help on social media. When a software engineer from Ahmedabad sought help for Tocilizumab injections on Twitter Monday evening, Dr Prashant Korat, Gujarat president of the Bharatiya Janta Yuva Morcha (BYJM), replied sharing BJYM Gujarat help desk’s number stating that “they will help you as much as possible”.

Dhriti Dhimani, 17-year-old Class 12 student from Ankleshwar joined the Gujarat Covid Support. “I use only Twitter and came across these volunteers who are helping Covid patients in need. I realised I should help them and contacted them. I can certainly contribute to this group,” said Dhriti.

Speaking about the difference in the role of social media platforms during the first and second wave of Covid-19, Parikh says, “In the first phase, people of Ahmedabad were talking of helping each other but in the second phase, everybody is asking for help. Previously organisations were active for food distribution but now medical services are being sought. People are feeling helpless.”

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