We organised life-savings drugs, filed a PIL for N95 mask prices and supplied protective gear to hospitals in May
After two months under nationwide lockdown, India is gradually attempting a return back to normalcy. And yet, the number of covid positive cases in major urban cities like Mumbai and Delhi are high and continue on an upward trend, with state governments and municipal corporations struggling to contain the spread, but the real burden is borne by hospitals.
On the one hand, the number of beds and facilities for treating covid patients is increasing, at the same time, public hospitals are working with about 40% of their regular staff. The rest are unable or refuse to come to work for various reasons. Meanwhile the number of deaths is rising and protective gear as well as equipment to deal with treatment and disposal continues to be scarce. A worrying development is that key drugs for treating Covid, such as Tocilizumab, Remdesivir, Favipiravir are both very expensive and desperately in short supply, even for those who can afford to pay for them.
It is only through the gracious support of our donors that we have been able to sustain a relief effort for two straight months. With rising number of deaths, our focus in the past couple of weeks has been on getting body bags, oxygen masks with reservoir bags and disposable bedsheets. The last ended up being a traumatic experience and we had to scrap an order, fortunately without a loss.
We are now at a stage, where a hospital bed in Mumbai has become the scarcest commodity and even locating an ambulance to take a patient to the hospital has become difficult. Tragically, ambulances are also being used in procuring protective gear from donors and the BMC, when they should be working solely for transportation of patients. We are trying our best to minimize this, even if it ends up increasing our cost of transportation.
Public Interest Litigation for Pricing Regulation
Our litigation against profiteering on the price of N 95 masks, an essential protection for health care workers dealing with Covid positive persons, is being heard by the Bombay High Court. Partnering with social activist Anjali Damania, founder of Voice of Indiana Taxpayers, we filed a public interest litigation (PIL) in the Bombay High Court. Sr Counsel Mihir Desai and his team, and Adv Mihir Joshi have done a fantastic job of making our case before the court. Lets all pray for a positive response, because protection for our health care workers, protects all of us.
Tocilizumab for Sion Hospital through Cipla Foundation
One of our important contributions this month came in the form of a drug - inj. tocilizumab. Doctors at Sion Hospital told us how 23 serious, Covid patients with aggressive respiratory symptoms had recovered by administering 400 mg of Tocilizumab, an expensive drug whose street price is over Rs40,000 a vial.
The hospital was desperately looking to procure more vials to save lives and asked if we could donate some. We had a breakthrough because our trustee Walter Vieira helped us connect with Mr M Hamied and Cipla Foundation, who promptly and graciously agreed to donate 10 vials of 400mg of the drug. We greatly appreciate the support from Cipla Foundation for this help!
Intubation Guides and Hand Sanitisers
Dr Dev Pahlajani, a former alumnus of Sion Hospital had made the donation specifically for the hospital. Dr Neela Patwardhan, helpful as always, informed us about the urgent requirement for 'intubation guides' used during surgeries where tracheal airway passages have become difficult to manage and there is a failure to ventilate or oxygenate. We were able to deliver eight such 'intubation guides' to the Department of Anesthesiology at Sion Hospital.
Another coordinated relief effort was possible due to the wonderful group working alongside activist Anjali Damani, Dr Anjali Chhabria and others. We have been able to pass all the requests for hand sanitisers to Dr Anajali Chhabria and her NGO.
Kawach - A Cheaper Alternative to N95 masks
With the scarcity of N95 masks and their preposterous prices, we were fortunate to connect with ETEX, a IIT-Delhi startup which has developed an affordable alternative mask - 'Kawach' which has a cloth surface and 90% filtration (as opposed to 95% with the N95 masks). However, on all other parameters it is as good or better than the N95 masks.
We ordered 10,000 masks for hospitals and senior citizen organisations in Mumbai and Navi Mumbai. As with everything new, there was some initial hesitation among hospitals but many are coming back to us with excellent feedback. We would urge private doctors to look at these as an effective alternative to expensive N95 masks and also for their patients, especially with co-morbidities who need it.
Reusable Rubber Gloves
Our search for reusable rubber gloves, such as the ones used by cleaning and maintenance staff at all hospitals has been going on for well over a month. Prices have almost doubled since our initial inquires in March and we were most reluctant to pay more than double in May!
We were pleasantly surprised, to receive a mail from Pulkit of Prime World, offering us huge donations of reusable rubber gloves. We were happy to collect these from his warehouse in Naigaon and have distributed them Sion Hospital, Cama & Albless Hospital, JJ Hospital, K B Bhabha Hospital, Ackworth Leprosy Hospital, Rajawadi Hospital and even to a community kitchen in Govandi.
Water Storage Tanks
In the early days of the lockdown, Moneylife Foundation had purchased and organise water storage tanks for migrants and displaced people, at the relief camp setup by Civil Defence. Now that the camp is being disbanded, we were asked by the Civil Defence whether we would like to donate these tanks to some other organisations in need.
We are glad to have found three organisations to whom each of these water tanks would be donated - Godad Palghar Hospital, M. A. Poddar Hospital and Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan, an NGO based out of Andheri.
Other Essentials and Deliveries Outside Mumbai
This month, though our focus has shifted to procuring body bags and disposable sheets for hospitals to meet their growing requirements, we have also procured and donated infrared thermometers, coveralls and nitrile gloves. These items have been delivered in most cases to hospitals within the city limits, with the assistance of either an ambulance, tempo or doctors personally picking them up from Prabhadevi.
In another breakthrough, we have been able to reach out to organisations in Navi Mumbai, Govandi or Kharghar thanks to Mr R Natarajan (father of our colleague Aravind Natarajan) a banker, who generously offered to ferry supplies to Navi Mumbai on his way back from work at Cuffe Parade. This helped us reach a community kitchen in Govandi and Tata's Advanced Centre for Treatment, Research and Education in Cancer (ACTREC) in Kharghar.
With BMC stepping in to purchase hospital essentials in Mumbai, we are hoping that requirements for masks, PPE kits and other basic items are being sufficiently handled, allowing us to focus on more specific and urgent requirements from hospitals. Furthermore, we are also hoping a positive ruling on our PIL and a price cap on N95 masks would help doctors and hospitals purchase these at a reasonable rate.
Donate to Support Our Relief Work
Donate materials: If you would like to donate some material to hospitals but do not know how, please connect with us ([email protected]) and we shall add you to our PPE Supply group on WhatsApp.
Donate money: As we continue to procure and deliver essentials for hospitals, our work in Covid relief has gradually increased with the support of donors and well-wishers. We can only hope to continue as long as we have donations. Please do donate if you would like to support our efforts. All donations received under 'General' purpose shall be utilised in this effort.
Moneylife TV & Helplines
With the outbreak of Covid-19, our events and daily clinics for this month have been suspended for the safety and benefit of all those involved. However, in this lockdown period you can still take advantage of our numerous videos of past seminars and workshops which are always available on our YouTube Channel Moneylife TV and Moneylife News Bites.
Although counselling on various issues from our experts is not possible in-person, you are welcome to email on [email protected] with your details. We shall forward your mail to the expert for guidance and do our best to get your query resolved.
Also, Moneylife Foundation is now on Telegram and Instagram, so do follow us on these channels to stay updated on our activities and events.
Thank you for your support, stay safe and look forward to your good wishes always.
Founder-Trustee, Moneylife Foundation
Trustees: TS Krishnamurthy, Dr KC Chakrabarty, Walter Vieira, Sucheta Dalal and Debashis Basu.
Moneylife Foundation is registered with the Charity Commissioner of Mumbai, is an Affiliate member of OECD's International Network on Financial Education, is a Supporter Member of Consumers International, Development Partner of Advocates for International Development (A4ID), and is a winner of the 10th MR Pai Memorial Award.
Donations are eligible for tax benefits under Sec 80G of the Income Tax 1961 (50% tax exemption) and MLF is registered under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010.