US based physicians pitch in virtually as doctors and hospitals in India get overwhelmed with surge.
Milwaukee, Wisconsin,-based physician Raj Karnatak is a busy man these days. After he finishes his day shift as a pulmonary and critical care internist in his hospital, he gets ready to hop on calls from needy patients thousands of miles away in India.
Dr. Karnatak has been volunteering to offer help as India grapples with the worst Covid crisis the world may have seen.
He says, “Initially we were getting referrals through the family or friends. More recently we have online platforms available where anyone in India can ask for a free online consultation.”
Amid reports of patients in India dying as they could not find a hospital bed, there were also thousands of patients with mild cases unable to get hold of their physicians with medical facilities overwhelmed.
It was during this time that many Indian origin doctors in America decided to step in and help people during the crisis. But for a relatively new disease like Covid, which also is associated with a tremendous fear factor, how do doctors from across continents manage to treat patients.
Dr. Karnatak explains, “Once we receive the first referral message, we set up a time for face to face or voice call with that person. We will take history regarding the course of Covid illness and the questions that person has for us.”
“As hospitals in India are overburdened, we are monitoring patients at home, we receive frequent updates with text messages regarding oxygen saturation, temperature, or any new symptoms that person is developing.”
US-based Online platforms such as MDHelpOnline are offering free Covid consultations from experienced doctors in the US to patients in India.
They also have a Hindi chatbox to extend their reach to patients with limited exposure to English. The patients from India can leave their phone number and e-mail id and a physician from the US would get in touch with them.
Not just the hospitals and physicians but even the testing laboratories are experiencing a patient overload in India. Dr. Karnatak says, “On many occasions, we also receive requests to interpret laboratory or imaging data on a Covid patient.
“In India laboratory tests and imaging can be done without a doctor’s prescription so many patients we are seeing over the phone already have their lab tests or imaging done just out of fear. We will typically make follow up phone calls in 48 hours to see if there is clinical deterioration.”
Most of the phone consultations are also serving as an important instrument to provide emotional support to folks with mild illness at home. Many are struggling with anxiety and fear associated with Covid and need close follow up with reassurance.
Dr. Karnatak says the medical fraternity has also stepped up and is helping each other during these times.
“On several other occasions, I have received phone calls from a treating physician in India regarding an exceedingly difficult Covid patient in the intensive care unit,” he says.
“Unfortunately, due to a really bad 2020, many of us here in the US are much more experienced in treating Covid patients.”
Online platforms such as mdhelponline.com and India Cares are some platforms that are offering help to Covid patients in India.
Both platforms have many healthcare workers volunteering from India and the US as they have physicians volunteering from many different specialties.
The physicians inform that if they have a question for a certain specialist, they will consult each other. Another mammoth task that doctors in the US say they are facing is trying to fight misinformation regarding Covid vaccine on social media or at personal level.
Dr. Karnatak says, “While we are talking to patients on the phone, we are also making sure patients, and everyone involved understands the importance of vaccination.”
“Few of our friends are working on delivering medical supplies to India. They were able to collect funding and delivered 40 noninvasive ventilators and oxygen concentrators to small suburban settings where access is limited.”
“Noninvasive ventilators have been in severe shortage in India. Now we have these ventilators on the ground, we are looking into if our assistance is needed to manage critically ill patients with these ventilators if authorities will allow us. We will be available if we are needed,” Dr. Karnatak says.
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