Help amidst the chaos

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Covid Care Goa, a resource website, has been proving a saviour to many in need during these panic-laden pandemic times. NT BUZZ details

RAMANDEEP KAUR | NT BUZZ

With panic and dread reigning supreme as COVID-19 wreaks havoc in the state, Covid Care Goa has been helping people in finding beds, getting ambulances, getting medicines and essentials delivered, providing home-cooked food, and more. Started on April 19 this year, the initiative is the brainchild of media entrepreneur, Shruti Chaturvedi, who moved to Goa two and a half years back from Ahmedabad.

“The second wave has hit Goa badly and the system was completely unprepared for it. We (she and her team of volunteers) saw a lot of people suffering and so we put together a structure in place to help as many Goans as possible in directing them towards the appropriate health care and making sure that we create a community support system around the state so that more people recover as easily as possible,” she says. She adds that Covid Care Goa is a one-stop website for everything that one needs to know if they have or think that they have coronavirus or if they have any issues related to getting admitted or treatment, or getting food.

She along with a team has collected data from across the state in various categories right from people who can cook food at home and deliver it, restaurants that cook nutritious healthy food and deliver it to the patients, NGOs, pharmacies that have appropriate medicines related to coronavirus and can deliver it, to pet sitters who can take care of pets of those suffering from virus, oxygen cylinder providers, etc. They have listed testing centres, testing labs and government COVID care centres as well. “It is like a full ecosystem that we have tried to bring on the website. We have 50 plus volunteers so far who are working actively day in day out,” she says. These volunteers keep verifying all the information that is on the website on a daily basis so that patients don’t have to make unnecessary calls as they try and get their required needs fulfilled.

And Chaturvedi is amazed at how much of an impact the website has had so far. “I just wanted to put something together to help friends, family and neighbours. But the moment I put it out on social media that I am looking for volunteers who can help me deal with this, the kind of response I got was amazing. We have at least 100 volunteer applications pending,” she says, adding that almost all of them have been working 15 to 16 hours a day. “All of us are working professionals but we have not been able to do anything related to our work because we are only trying to make this initiative better,” she says.

The reason, she believes, why so many people are approaching them for help, is because everybody is so confused. “The government has hardly put any system in place to help Goans, helplines don’t work, people don’t answer the phone calls, hospitals don’t answer the phone calls, nobody tells people where to go, what to do and how to get things done, etc,” she says.

So far, the team has managed to help 4000 people. Other than that, there are countless people who have benefited from their website with words of appreciation pouring in often.

The team is especially focused on helping the elderly. “A lot of elderly people in Goa live by themselves. Their children are all abroad. I feel this is the age category which is suffering the most in Goa right now,” says Chaturvedi.

And so while COVID Care Goa focuses on collating and verifying data, helping patients find available COVID and ICU beds, and delivering home isolation kits and medicines, special focus is given to the elderly. “We have even taken the elderly to hospitals and helped them with paperwork. Most elderly are inept at registering themselves for home isolation or vaccination on the website so we help them register for the same as well,” she says.

Of course, while they are doing all that they can to help, there have been heart-breaking instances where they have been unable to arrange help in time and people have died. “It does take a toll on us but then there are so many positive messages we get, especially from the elderly who only have good words and blessings,” says Chaturvedi.

But ideally, says Chaturvedi, they should not have had to set up this website and put a system in place to help out.

“These things should have been taken care of by the government, by the health department. They should have foreseen it,” she says, adding that more than the people in the government who are trying to do their best, it is the slowness of the system that is to blame. “Within a week we have a huge verified database, we have a website up and running, we have been helping people, and that is the kind of efficiency we can have because we are doing it on our own and we don’t have to take approvals or anything,” she says.

And initiatives like theirs, she thinks, are important now because the system is failing constantly. “This is my first time when I am seeing how people are actually suffering at the hand of the state and the country as well. Any influencer and celebrity with the right conscience in place should be stepping up in helping to amplify information. Social media platforms have become what the government should be doing. At this point in time, only we can help ourselves,” she says.

The only message she has for Goans is to not delay in getting tested if they have any symptoms because not getting the treatment at the right time is creating a lot of complications. “By now all Goans are aware that Goa is severely unprepared to handle a pandemic of this scale. Even today, there are people in both private and government hospitals who are sleeping on the floor, who have backaches because they have not found a chair to sit on for days with their oxygen cylinder on. You have to be privileged and influential to even get a bed in a general ward right now. Thus, I request Goans to avoid going out if possible,” she says, adding that no government is going to come to our help. “If we want to keep the fabric of Goa alive, we just need to come together. So, help each other, be kind and don’t travel if you can.” Further, she adds, everybody is suffering and going through so much trauma at different levels.  

The government, she reiterates, should have been prepared for this second wave long before as it had already hit other states before it hit Goa. But going forward there is a need to control the situation and be prepared. “We have still not hit the peak of the second wave which is supposed to be mid-May,” she says. “We do not have a lot of time so I think the government really needs to ramp up.”