Thirty two year old Ganesh Bhat, a resident of Devprayag of Tehri district, Uttarakhand, has been extremely busy since the lockdown was imposed in India. With 108 medical emergency number not responding at times, Bhat has been using his car as an ambulance to ferry patients to nearby hospitals for treatment.
“The non-functioning of this service is causing a lot of problems, especially to pregnant women and senior citizens who have heart problems and other serious ailments,” he says.
In this telephonic interview with The Better India, Bhat speaks about how he has been extending help during this COVID-19 lockdown period.
“Since the NH-58 was shut down, what we call as the lifeline for our district, it was becoming increasingly difficult for the residents to function. From getting their regular supply of ration to visiting a hospital everything was becoming a problem,” he says.
Speaking about the 108 helpline, Bhat says, “Many times, even when we would get through, we were being told that the vehicle is not available or is very far away so it would take time to reach the person.”
This prompted Bhat to use his vehicle to carry those in need to and from the hospital. On an average, he gets four emergency cases each day and so far, he has lend a helping hand to 20 emergency, non-covid patients.
As Devprayag is a hilly region, it makes it even more difficult for rescue vehicles to reach in time. “Even before the lockdown life was tough for us and with this happening, it has become even more difficult,” he says.
Thus, armed with his blue Tata Nano, Bhat decided to help as many people as he could. The good samaritan even printed his contact details and stuck them on the front and back windshield of his car. All done with the aim to be accessible 24/7 to the people of his district.
On 21 March 2020, Bhat put out a message on his Facebook page with his contact details and urged people to call him in case of any medical emergency. “The first call I got was to take a pregnant woman to the hospital and just after that I got a call to take a child who had broken his arm,” he informs.
So how does he manage to get around given the lockdown situation?
“Madam, I have lived here long enough now. People, including police personnel know me well. All I am doing is providing an essential service. I stand to gain absolutely nothing from this,” laughs the man who runs computer training institutes in various parts of the district, mostly in places that have not seen much development.
Additionally, as Bhat makes a few trips daily to the hospital, he gets medicines and essential supplies to people who ask for them.
Speaking about how some people from his hometown are afraid of stepping out despite the need to go to the hospital, he says, “Tomorrow, I will take a woman to the hospital who has been unwell for almost a week and has been surviving by trying home remedies and medicines that she had readily available.”
Since the distress calls have increased, Bhat has put together a team of volunteers who help him. “I ensure that one or the other volunteer is always with me in the car to handle any situation that might crop up.”
Ganesh Bhat is available on +91 94105 30387 and in case you or anyone you know is in need of medical assistance in Uttarakhand, do reach out to him.
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)