UC Medical School doctor tries to secure COVID-19 supplies in India
How did you start this project?
I was watching the news and everything that was going on in India, and I was just very moved by a lot of what I was seeing. I have a good part of my family there – a big part of my family is a doctor and works in the health field, and I just wanted to do something to help. Last April, when we were in the middle of a very bad COVID crisis here in the United States, India sent drugs and supplies to the United States. I’m just trying to reciprocate and be a good citizen of the world. We can’t think of this pandemic as an American problem or an Indian problem or a Chinese problem – it’s a problem for the whole world. We live in a very interconnected world and an issue in Brazil or Australia has implications for Colorado. We have to think globally, and I wanted to do something to at least get attention and help in any way I can.
How did you start at UCHealth in terms of collecting supplies to send?
I contacted Tom Gronow, the hospital’s COO, and said, “Look, here’s the situation – would you be okay with me picking up supplies next week?” He said, “Of course, whatever we don’t use.” We had expired gloves, expired dresses, things that we can’t use here at the moment, but they are desperately needed in India, and we were able to send them. I worked closely with Shauna Sutton, who is one of the operating room nurse managers; she had actually done most of the work for it and sort of took the bull by the horns to get the word out. It was extremely touching for me to see how much people did and how much they wanted to help. We just shipped the first batch of goods on Saturday, and they will be arriving in India within the next few days. We have sent in gloves, gowns, antiseptics, alcohol wipes, face shields – things that are currently widely used in India.
Did you work with people you know in India to get the supplies where they needed to go?
I coordinated with a few hospitals and created a WhatsApp group for some cancer surgeons, and they sent it to the people who really need it. In particular, some of the more rural hospitals or public hospitals or hospitals that take in the safety net population – these are the ones that are really suffering. Some of my field contacts know people in these hospitals, so they can bring them the equipment. I actually learned a lot in this process. Firstly, just like we have done here, there are hospitals in India that are doing well, that have more than they need, but the majority of hospitals really need things. I was able to find out which hospitals were most in need, and I connected with them. I also learned a lot about the supply chain and how things work in a hospital. As a surgeon, I request an instrument or request a suture in the operating room, and I just got it. You don’t do all of the work to order this, have it shipped, unpack it, and then have it brought to the operating room for us to use. I’ve learned a lot about this over the past two weeks, and it’s been good for me too.
Will the effort continue for some time?
I think so. I think we’ll try to do this for the next 3-4 weeks. I want the first batch of products to get there safely so that we know we have a real supply chain and are able to get things done there. One of the things that has been a little difficult is that so many people have contracted COVID, a lot of truck drivers have called in sick. We just want to make sure that the things we send get where we want them. Once we know this is happening, we hope to do it once a week for the next few weeks.