Need info about oxygen and beds? volunteers have it all


They even supply food to patients in home isolation

Bankura:  A desire to help people amid the pandemic has helped a team of four to grow to a squad of more than 400.

Subhankar Deb, a resident of Hindustan Motors in Hooghly district, his wife and two of his sisters thought of helping Covid-19 patients by providing accurate information about beds available in hospitals, oxygen and medicines. He created a WhatsApp group and posted a request on Facebook for help.

“Within 36 hours of the post, the number of members exceeded the limit, and we had to create another group,” Deb said. 

The demand for medical aid was so high that they had to develop a website within two days. They divided the group into four teams – Live Bed, Oxygen, Ambulance and Medicines, and Blood and Plasma. However, they prioritised Live Bed.

“Through the website, we have been providing aid in six districts — Kolkata, Hooghly, Howrah, South 24 Parganas, North 24 Parganas and Nadia. The team has helped nearly 2,000 people,” Deb added.

Ranit Ghosh, a resident of Barasat in North 24 Parganas, saw one of his friend’s WhatsApp status with some relevant phone numbers and contacted her for an ICU bed for his 38-year-old sister.

“They just asked me to fill a form. After some time, they arranged a bed in the ICU ward of GNRC Hospital at Barasat. She is now out of danger; her oxygen demand has reduced. Now I share all those details on social media. I inform whoever reverts,” Ranit shared. 

Though everyone is home, anxiety over exposure to the virus is troubling people. Lack of clarity over availability of beds and oxygen has left family members of patients confused. Amid this, social media are playing a crucial role to communicate with people from different areas.

Saheli Sarkar, a resident of Dum Dum in North 24 Parganas, said: “I have been sharing such posts on social media for the past couple of days.”

To tackle the situation, the Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI) created a group of young volunteers, called Red Volunteers, who are collecting information regarding availability of oxygen and beds, verifying it and helping Covid patients. They have created a Google drive that contains district- and zone-wise contacts of Red Volunteers across West Bengal. 

Piyas Chakraborty, a Red Volunteer at Liluah, Howrah district, said: “Other than informing people about beds and oxygen cylinders, we run a community kitchen. Every day we cook food for patients in home isolation. We have three bikes to deliver foods to their doorsteps.” 

Nabanita Chakraborty, a member of the Students’ Federation of India central committee, said that no one is leading the Red Volunteers teams across the state; all are working as separate units. “At Serampore (in Hooghly district), we have some stock of oxygen cylinders and are in close contact with the suppliers. As soon as we get to know about anyone’s oxygen level going below 80, we deliver a cylinder there.”

The second wave of the pandemic is seeing new highs in daily cases, creating a pan-India crisis of oxygen and beds. The efforts of these volunteers are playing a crucial role in people getting proper treatment.


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