Hospitals send COVID-19 relief to hard-hit India

Several U.S. hospitals have stepped up to provide India’s frontl-ine healthcare personnel with much-needed protective equipment during the current COVID-19 outbreak.

Last week, suburban Chicago-based Edward-Elmhurst Health partnered with local social support organization India Hub to donate five pallets of personal protective equipment, including 3,500 isolation gowns, 6,000 N95 masks and 72,000 exam gloves to emergency relief groups in India like the Red Cross.

“We wanted to make a donation that can help individuals on the ground right now,” said Colin Dalough, manager of community and government relations at Edward-Elmhurst. “Whatever we can do in whatever limited capacity that we have from afar nevertheless we’ll want to try and help those individuals from a humanitarian standpoint.”

Some of the U.S.’s largest healthcare providers have similar relief efforts underway.

Chicago-based CommonSpirit Health on Wednesday said it plans to donate more than 630,000 pieces of surplus PPE to the relief effort, including masks, gowns, goggles, coveralls and face shields. The health system will work with airline  Air India and relief organization Rotary International to deliver and distribute the equipment.

Dan DeLay, CommonSpirit’s senior vice president of supplies and services resource management, said it would likely take another 10 days before the full shipment reaches India since Air India is prioritizing delivery of oxygen tanks and generators.

India has approximately 100 production plants that produce PPE, but the outbreak has affected many workers and slowed down production, DeLay said.

“You have a situation where they do need donations going forward until the situation stabilizes,” DeLay said.

Last week, Oakland, Calif.-based, Kaiser Permanente pledged more than $5 million in PPE and medical supplies to the relief effort, including swabs and tubes for COVID-19 testing and oxygen generators.

Kaiser recently established a website for their employees to make personal cash donations the health system plans to match up to a total of $100,000 to go to organizations supporting India and other countries experiencing surges in COVID-19 cases.

“While there are counties here at home and countries around the world that continue to be hit hard by the pandemic, the situation in India outstrips anything we have seen,” Kaiser Chairman and CEO Greg Adams said in a statement on Tuesday. “We felt compelled to join with other national and international organizations and foundations to help.”

New York-based Northwell Health has committed to providing 1 million KN95 respirators, 35 ventilators and 1,000 oxygen concentrators to the hardest-hit areas of India. An initial shipment of donated masks and PPE was sent May 4, with the rest  arriving in India by the end of last week.

Northwell also established a fund to support the health system’s Center for Global Health where all financial donations received in May will be directed to the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin, which is helping to coordinate Northwell’s relief effort.

Over the past two weeks, India has broken records for highest single-day COVID-19 case totals, with more than 362,000 confirmed on Thursday by the World Health Organization. Since Jan. 3, 2020, more than 23 million confirmed cases have been reported in India with more 258,000 deaths.

About two-thirds of Indians live in rural areas, where the healthcare infrastructure is much less robust, said Louise Ivers, executive director of the Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Global Health.

“There is capacity in the Indian healthcare system, but it is not dispersed around the country to all the places that need it,” she said on a webinar Thursday coordinated by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “There is a massive crisis of need at the moment. Not only are they unable to get the care they need for COVID, but presumably other healthcare is getting crowded out of the system.”

Beyond donations, Ivers said a more global approach to coordinating a response to disease threats will be needed going forward.

“This should be a wakeup call for every community that doesn’t have high coverage of vaccination,” said Ivers, noting that the Africa CDC director recently called on his fellow leaders to not be hasty in relaxing restrictions. “I am very concerned for other countries; we see in Nepal how this is causing exponential growth. We have to stay on alert.”

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Marie Maynes
Marie Maynes is a Sports enthusiast and writes for the Sports section of ANH.