In an unique effort to provide medical facilities for Covid patients in rural areas, three organisations came together at Delhi's Bangla Sahib Gurudwara Saturday to launch the 'Doctors on Wheels' service.
'Doctors on Wheels' is a bus that will travel to villages in western Uttar Pradesh over the next three months to provide free medical consultations and medicines for Covid patients. There will be one doctor and two paramedics onboard, and the bus aims to cover a massive 10 lakh people every month.
A startup called DoctCo, the Lung Care Foundation and the Delhi Sikh Gurudwara Management Committee came together for this initiative.
"We will be helping out by replenishing medical supplies and assisting them with any other need. It is a humongous task to cover so many villages and reach out to lakhs of people but the Gurudwara Committee has always been at the forefront in helping people in this pandemic and we will continue to do so," Harmeet Singh Kalka, the committee's General Secretary, said.
"DoctCo is an early-stage startup working in small towns to provide accessible healthcare. Since we deal with smaller cities we came across places like Aligarh - where there is a huge scarcity of doctors around rural areas. We decided to come up with an initiative, in association with the Lung Care Foundation," Nimith Agrawal, DoctCo's founder, said.
"Our Prime Minister says 'Jahaan bimaari vahaan ilaaj (treatment must be where the disease is)', so we came up with this mobile system," he added.
The bus is equipped with thermal scanners, oximeters, ECG machines and other medical devices. It will carry out medical screening and staff on board can prescribe basic medication to people with early Covid symptoms, or are suspected of being infected with the virus.
Mr Agrawal said the plan is to have 10 more buses like this to cover the hilly regions of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand as well.
"We want the medicines to reach people instead of people going around hunting for them. We have created kits with basic medicines - like 30 Paracetamol tablets, 10 Doxycycline tablets and 5 Ivermectin tablets. The kit also contains instructions about when and how these medicines are to be taken," Rajeev Khurana, a founder-trustee of the LungCare Foundation, said.
He said 4,100 such kits were stored on the bus and ready to be distributed.
"In case there are advanced problems then the doctor on the bus can virtually connect the patient to super specialists at Lung Care Foundation for teleconsultations. The patient can then be guided about when and how to approach the nearest hospital," he added.
India has been hit hard by the second Covid wave, with lakhs of new cases and thousands of deaths being reported every day.
Daily numbers have shown a steady decline from the peak of over four lakh cases in a day - this morning around 1.2 lakh were reported - but experts have warned of a potential third wave that could affect rural and remote areas of the country.
Initiatives like 'doctors on wheels' could go a long way in ensuring basic medical care for all Indians, and not just those in big cities and urban centres.