Indian American physicians raise £1.87m for Covid-19 assistance in India
Doctors at the Covid-19 Isolation and Treatment centre, set up by Sant Nirankari Mission at Burari, in New Delhi. (PTI Photo)
INDIAN AMERICAN physicians have sought “blanket immunity and indemnification” from the Indian government for offering their voluntary services to Covid-19 patients either virtually or in-person by flying to their home country amid an unprecedented second wave of the deadly coronavirus pandemic.
The American Association of Physicians of Indian-Origin (AAPI), which represents thousands of Indian-origin doctors in the US, has urged this in identical letters to Indian vice-president Venkaiah Naidu and federal health minister Harsh Vardhan. AAPI has also raised $2.6 million (£1.87m) for Covid-19 assistance in India.
“We request the Government of India through an emergency declaration (to) provide a blanket immunity and indemnification for volunteering physicians from the USA, providing Covid related medical care in India,” the AAPI leadership wrote in the letters.
“That will mobilise thousands of Indian doctors in the US to come forward to offer their expertise and provide compassionate and competent care urgently and relieve the heavy burden on the overstretched physicians and systems in India. Please consider this request as an urgent priority, as time is of essence,” it said. Copies of the letters were dated April 30.
A delegation of the AAPI leadership is scheduled to have a virtual conversation with the health minister soon.
“Hundreds of Indian-American doctors are ready to sign up to help Covid-19 patients in India through tele-health and remotely,” AAPI vice-president Dr Ravi Kolli said.
“There are some legal and licensing issues that may not allow (tele-health and tele-consultancy). We want to get a clear understanding of what is the government’s position as far as licensing and liability requirements,” he said. Once that is done, “(we) can unleash thousands and thousands of Indian doctors to help local doctors (in India),” Dr Kolli said.
AAPI, he said, has three partners who are willing to donate their platforms for the Indian doctors to do consultancy free of charges. In addition, two groups of Indian doctors numbering 20 each from California and Chicago have offered to fly to India to serve in any part of the country to assist local administrations to treat Covid-19 patients.
“We do feel that it is our calling, it is our job, moral duty” to help people in India right now, he said, adding that there has been an outpouring of support from Indian American doctors.
In under a week, AAPI has raised $2.6m (£1.87m). One of the biggest donations of $500,000 has come from Dr Jagdish Shah from Richmond in Virginia.
AAPI has so far sent 1,000 oxygen concentrators and is in the process of sending another 1,000. It has tied up with Sewa International USA, a non-profit body, he said.
Describing the situation in India as dire, Kolli said people in India are dying of lack of oxygen.
“Doctors are exhausted. When we receive calls from doctors, they’re showing signs of stress and anguish, being burned, (and) are not able to take care of the patient and save their lives. They are desperately pleading for whatever we can do to send whatever we can to help them provide some oxygen and basic care as well as more appropriate therapeutics, which also appear to be in short supply. So, we are well aware of the situation, the tragedy and the stress that everybody is having,” he said.
India is struggling with an unprecedented second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic with more than 3,00,000 daily new coronavirus cases being reported in the past few days.