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How an ‘Uber’ for Oxygen Concentrators Helps Bengalureans Use The Machines for Free

To deal with oxygen shortage during the second wave of coronavirus, an alumni team from the Indian School of Business, Bengaluru, has launched the Oxygen4Blr initiative to procure and distribute oxygen concentrators across the city.

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To help deal with the oxygen shortage amid the second wave of COVID-19, alumni of the Indian School of Business (ISB) have joined hands to procure oxygen concentrators and distribute them free of cost.

“We heard that a few residents in Bengaluru had purchased oxygen concentrators (OC) for family members who were struggling to source them. However, once the patient recovered after a month or two, the concentrator remained unutilised,” says Pawan Kumar Dasaraju, one of the volunteers of the ISB alumni community.

The team, with a total of 20 volunteers from ISB and other business schools in India have launched Oxygen4blr, a sharing model for OCs, which has saved 25 lives in Bengaluru.

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free oxygen concentrators in Bengaluru
The ISB alumni volunteers with the oxygen concentrators.

In an interview with The Better India, Pawan and Gurpreet Walia, a fellow volunteer for the initiative, talk about how the team procured the OCs and how they plan to save 3,000 lives within one year.

25 lives saved

In the last week of April the team approached local distributors who source OCs from other countries and placed an order for 25 pieces.

“To finalise the order, we had to pay a 50% advance. However, we had just launched a fundraiser and the money collected was not enough. So, Pawan and I together put in Rs 7 lakh from our savings, as a loan, to purchase the OCs,” says Gurpreet.

As their mission progressed, more volunteers joined the cause. While one of them offered technology to support the backend processes, another offered an idle call centre as their workspace, and another group of volunteers collated Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for patients and attendants to use the device efficiently.

Once they received their first shipment on 10 May, the volunteers started identifying people who were looking to source oxygen cylinders.

“Before we began distributing OCs, the volunteers were involved in helping people by identifying verified leads for hospital beds, medicine and oxygen. So when we began receiving new requests for oxygen cylinders, the volunteer would direct them towards our new initiative,” says Pawan, adding that the service is provided free of cost.

However a fully refundable deposit of Rs. 50,000 must be paid for the device.

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The concentrators are distributed in an Uber-like community sharing model. This means that after one patient uses the device, the concentrator must be sanitised and returned to the concerned volunteer. The patient will not only receive a full refund of their deposit, but the device will also be distributed to another person in need.

If a patient or their family cannot afford to pay the deposit, Gurpreet says it will be reduced or waived.

In less than 10 days of operation, the OCs have benefitted 25 people. In a few days, the team will receive another shipment with 20 machines, which will help more patients in need. They plan to procure 100 OCs to save 3,000 lives in one year.

However, to purchase these the team requires funds. They are requesting those who can help to donate any amount they can spare.

How to request for the Oxygen Concentrator?

If you are residing in Bangalore and require an OC for a family member or a friend, visit the official Oxygen4blr website. Here, you will need to fill in necessary details including the patient’s name, Specimen Referral Form (SRF) ID, KYC (Know Your Customer) documents and SpO2 (oxygen saturation) levels.

Finally, the user can choose whether they wish to pay the deposit. If yes, the payment can be made through UPI or net banking. Once the team has received the request, a volunteer would confirm the availability of a concentrator, and the patient’s attendant can pick it up from the nearest volunteer’s location within two hours.

“We have received requests as late as 1.30 am when the patient’s O2 level suddenly dropped, and we were able to provide them a concentrator on time,” says Gurpreet.

To know more visit their website, or make a donation here.

Edited by Divya Sethu

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