An initiative started to help Covid-19 patients through free online consultation with doctors in the Bidhannagar assembly constituency area is making a difference within a month of its launch. Now the organisers are spreading the service to non-Covid patients who are unable to reach out for medical treatment, fearing infection.
Named Sparsho, the initiative of MLA Sujit Bose is being run in association with a group of doctors called Protect the Warriors. “People lack awareness about Covid-19. Those in home isolation were not getting medical guidance in many cases. Through video conference, we are reaching out to patients,” Bose told The Telegraph Salt Lake. Registration for patients are done Monday to Saturday 12noon to 3pm on the Sparsho helpline while doctors offer consultation from 4pm to 6pm.
In the first month since it was set up, doctors in the group attended to 254 patients, 356 were tested free of cost for Covid-19 infection, including 212 at the Bidhannagar Subdivisional Hospital and the rest at the Dakshindari testing facility, 26 critically ill patients were hospitalised while pulse oxymeters were reached to 16 families in isolation which could not afford to buy one.
“As we are working in collaboration with Swasthya Bhaban, we have in hand the data on who tests positive when and staying in home isolation. We reach out to all of them in the Bidhannagar area. The panic that existed even in end-July about Covid has subsided to an extent as people now know they will get medical support from Sparsho,” said Abhik Ghosh, a CB Block-based ENT specialist who is coordinating with the member-doctors.
Sparsho, he points out, came into being when Bose was hospitalised with Covid himself. “Our organisation, Protect the Warriors, was formed in end-March to support healthcare workers. We had about 25-26 doctors on board. We further escalated our activities and gained prominence after cyclone Amphan, holding health camps in the Sunderbans and East Midnapore. But as our membership increased to 500-plus, we realised that police, vegetable sellers or garbage cleaners were all frontline workers in their own way and deserved support.” At this point, he was visiting Bose regularly in hospital. “One day, he asked me to do something for his constituency. That is how the platform came into being.”
The single biggest achievement in the first month, he feels, is the sharp improvement in the area’s recovery rate. “Before Sparsho came into being, the local recovery rate was 62 per cent. Now it has shot up to 90 per cent.”
At this rate, he expects the Covid situation in Bidhannagar assembly area (which is different from the municipal corporation area) to be under control in another month. “A crisis of availability of Covid beds is not there any more as most big hospitals in and around Salt Lake have beds to offer to Covid patients. The only shortage is of ICU beds with ventilators.”
Adds co-founder of Protect the Warriors Anirban Dolui, a public health specialist who is also the Covid surveillance officer of North 24-Parganas: “Bidhannagar was clocking 100-150 new infections daily from end-May to end-June. The rate remained static through July. Now it has come down to 35 to 50 new cases daily. Both active cases per day and test positivity rate are currently on a downward graph. Better awareness, accessibility of testing and the improved support infrastructure, like what Sparsho is providing, are certainly yielding results.”
The rising popularity of Sparsho means having to attend calls at odd hours, sometimes even from outside Bidhannagar constituency. “Three days ago, we got a call at 11.30pm on our helpline. A three-year old’s father from Beleghata was seeking help for his son’s fever. I requested a paediatrician member to reach out. At midnight, the doctor offered him video consultation.” That is why the helpline is now being manned for longer hours than was planned.
The platform is also hosting online interactive medical meets. Block committees of localities are informed in advance so that residents of the area can log in. “We have doctors from various fields talking and taking questions. So far, 18 meets have taken place over video conference. We get over 200 live views on an average for these programmes,” Ghosh said.
Doctor on call
Sparsho helpline: (For Bidhannagar Assembly constituency residents) 7439596460 and 7439598338
Registration time: 12noon to 12 midnight
Consultation time: 4pm to 6pm. Emergency consultation at any time of the day.