British Indian doctors are stepping in strongly to assist Indian doctors in dealing with the Covid crisis. The intervention, coming at many levels, is being organised by the British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (BAPIO).
At the heart of the new push is the creation of a virtual hub stepping in on three principal tracks. “We are seeing for example CT scans being done in India, and the current reporting time for these can be three to four days,” Dr Parag Singhal, BAPIO national secretary tells CNN News18. “So already we have scans coming here, our specialists here are doing the reporting, and so these can then be reported back more quickly.”
The fundamental aim, Dr Singhal says, is to take some of the pressure off Indian doctors. “In all cases we are working with Indian doctors to support them, not directly with patients.” BAPIO is aiming, he said, to do what it can to “reduce pressure on the system.”
More than 200 radiologists and other specialists are already on board. That’s just within a day or so of the launch of the initiative. Within a few days BAPIO expects to have more than a thousand doctors on board to work supportively of doctors in India.
British Indian doctors are preparing to be on hand for “virtual ward rounds”, Dr Singhal says. “So we can be available to junior doctors to consult through zoom meetings and whatsapp video calls while the senior doctors can look after the very unwell patients.” Such virtual ward rounds, he says, “will be based on observations, review of blood tests, we will talk to junior doctors and if we are concerned, then to the senior consultant.”
The move has begun to work very well already in two hospitals in Nagpur, Dr Singhal says. These include the 260-bed Kingsway Hospital and the makeshift centre at Hotel Center Point with 180 beds. “We have virtually increased the medical manpower available.”
British Indian doctors will not aim to work directly with patients, he says. That could create legal and regulatory issues, and above all, he says, “we do not wish to try to bypass local doctors in any way, but only to work with them peer to peer in ways they can find supportive.” In Nagpur for instance, he said, “we are working with doctors and their infrastructure, they are fully on board.”
British Indian doctors can play a role across many different settings, he says. A further programme is being developed swiftly to make British Indian doctors available ‘on call’ for remote health centres in Indian that may not have Covid specialty resources. “This way more and more patients can be looked after in home settings, a lot of patients can be well managed at home.”
All these moves are not some knee-jerk move on the part of British Indian doctors, says Dr Singha, who is also executive director of the BAPIO training academy. “Due care is being taken after rapid but extensive consultations. “We are ensuring governance on both sides, so there is a record of all consultations, an auditable trail, and due data protection, because we don’t want the data leaked.”
BAPIO has also raised a call for doctors to provide what equipment they can. That is besides what has been sent and promises further by the British government.
Britain’s National Health Service, he says, has a lot equipment that was meant for the Nightingale Hospitals that was not used. There is also a considerable amount of equipment in other hospitals that is not currently being used.
All such equipment whether supplied by the government or raised individually, is going to the central health ministry in India, he says. “Nobody here knows what will be done with the equipment, where it will go from there. I genuinely hope it is put to god use.”
The British government has said on its part that the consignments sent are the first but by no means the last. More massive support is coming in from France and Germany, and from other countries in the European Union through the EU’s Civil Protection Mechanism.
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