With the soaring need for oxygen therapy for Covid-19 patients, an Indian American network of donors and doers unlock supply and distribution of oxygen concentrators.
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MUMBAI, India - May 9, 2021 — A FedEx 777 cargo plane landed in Mumbai this morning with 81,000 kgs of medical equipment for Tata Memorial Centre (TMC) and its associated hospitals for distribution across India. The chartered flight carried in 3,400 portable oxygen concentrators along with 300,000 N95 masks. A few hours later, an Air India passenger plane landed in Delhi with an additional 400 concentrators. These are the third and fourth shipments that Tata Memorial Centre (TMC) has brought in over the past two weeks.
TMC, besides providing life-saving services, is also sourcing and allocating medical equipment for over 200 hospitals across India that are part of the National Cancer Grid (NCG). Dr. Rajendra Badwe, Director of TMC, says, “We have the singular focus of getting these units to the hospitals throughout India so that many can breathe well.”
This expedient and organized response to the pandemic is fitting with TMC’s role as an 80-year-old institution focused on delivering quality care to all, including the most vulnerable and underserved in the country.
TMC is a tertiary cancer center under the Department of Atomic Energy, Government of India. It sees up to 100,000 new cancer cases each year. Two thirds of its patients are treated at a highly subsidized rate or completely free of charge.
Consolidating efforts at TMC along with Dr. Badwe are Dr. CS Pramesh, Director of Tata Memorial Hospital, and Dr. Pankaj Chaturvedi, the Deputy Director of Epidemiology. Dr. Pramesh, also the Coordinator of the National Cancer Grid, says, “We are collecting requests for equipment and consumables from hospitals across the NCG, and mapping the current incidence of Covid-19 infections to determine where the greatest needs are and prioritizing government and charitable organizations to finalize the allocation [of oxygen concentrators].” This disbursement will be sent onwards to NCG centres in Maharashtra, New Delhi, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Madhya Pradesh, Mizoram, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, West Bengal, Bihar, Rajasthan, Kerala, amongst others.
Throughout the pandemic, TMC has been responsible for protecting cancer patients who are far more susceptible to an adverse event from Covid-19 than others. Adding to the risks that Covid-19 presents, the risk of untreated cancer looms large as it can be more fatal than the virus. All seven TMC centres across India—Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, Sangrur, Varanasi, Guwahati, Vishakhapatnam and Muzaffarpur—have continued cancer care throughout the pandemic. Together, they have managed to treat over 80,000 patients with cancer and a third of that number facing cancer and Covid-19 across India.
Since the first wave of the pandemic, TMC has been a leader in India’s Covid-19 response. In June 2020, TMC partnered with the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and the Maharashtra government to help set up an ad-hoc, 518 bed and 10 ICU bed Covid-19 facility at the NSCI Dome in Mumbai. As soon as the second wave hit, TMC’s team of experts drew on this experience and identified that lightweight, portable, high-flow oxygen concentrators would have the maximum impact in saving lives, especially in hospitals that don’t have oxygen pipelines. Dr. Chaturvedi, who was looking after the NSCI centre, explains that the second wave of the pandemic seems to be related to a new variant that is affecting the lungs of young people, leading to a sharp rise in deaths among that population. One of the important factors leading to mortality is the lack of ICU beds, lifesaving drugs, and oxygen. Portable oxygen concentrators help decongest ICUs and oxygen beds for truly needy patients by offering home support for patients with mild illness, allowing recovering patients to continue care at home, and supporting patients that are waiting hours or days for a hospital bed.
When asked how TMC has been able to respond so effectively to the recent shortage in oxygen supply, Dr. Badwe states, “Besides local industry stepping up production of medical grade oxygen, philanthropists like Tata Trusts and other NGOs in India helping procure large oxygenators, we have had an overwhelming response globally, with the Indian diaspora and medical community joining hands to support.
“In the US specifically, Gitika and Naresh, in their personal capacity, have gone out on a limb, networked, garnered support, and helped facilitate logistics to ensure that the essential supply of oxygenators reaches us.
“Air India, our national carrier, has been superlative in their services and has been instrumental in the speedy delivery of the consignment without any added cost of transit.”
Gitika Srivastava and Dr. Naresh Ramarajan are the Boston-based founders of Navya, which manages TMC’s online opinions as a trusted partner of TMC for over ten years.
Two weeks ago, Community Partners International, a California based humanitarian organization, offered to donate 73 unused oxygen concentrators to India. Dr. Ramarajan immediately proposed that the units be deployed to TMC. Within hours, Gitika and Naresh personally managed the pickup, transfer, logistics, and paperwork to transport on an Air India passenger flight from San Francisco to Delhi to a TMC center in Assam. This led to Air India partnering with TMC to carry medical supplies to and within India.
Simultaneously in New York, Dr. Parul Shukla, Dr. Rahul Sharma, and Dr. Anand Joshi at the New York Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medicine swung into action to help India. Dr Shukla, who had worked at TMC for over 10 years, contacted Dr Badwe, who told him that the need of the hour was oxygen concentrators. Within 48 hours, with a generous grant from the Yusuf and Farida Hamied Foundation, 100 concentrators were similarly loaded onto a Mumbai bound Air India flight. The leadership of the New York Presbyterian Hospital, Dr Steve Corwin and Dr Laura Forese, immediately approved a donation of two million dollars to procure an additional 2800 oxygen concentrators.
This time, Dr. Ramarajan contacted Direct Relief, a humanitarian aid organization with a global distribution infrastructure, to help with the shipment. In response to Direct Relief’s request, FedEx sponsored a 777 charter flight, the largest aircraft in its cargo fleet. Since the flight has a capacity of 81,000 kgs, New-York-based Northwell Health donated 300,000 masks to be flown to India; and Gitika reached out to Massachusetts philanthropist Desh Desphande to help raise funds for 1,000 more concentrators. TMC Navya had negotiated the purchase of these additional lightweight units at a bulk discount.
On Saturday May 1st, the group initiated the Together for India campaign (o2.tmc.navya.care) to raise funds to purchase lightweight concentrators, portable for use across India. Indian American philanthropists and foundations such as Jaishree and Desh Deshpande, Neeru and Vinod Khosla, Hemant Taneja, Amar Sawhney, Bindi and Jay Tulli, John Eppolito, David Fialkow, Ken Chenault, Christopher Gannon, Paulette Harvey, Neeraj Agrawal, Dennis Hong and Rob Hagan, American India Foundation, The Boston Foundation, Give Back Foundation, Godhwani Family, and Palakurthi Foundation, Chirag Foundation, Tarang Foundation, Saraswati Fund, Wilens/Longcare Family Fund, along with firms, such as General Catalyst, Leader Bank, Arena Investors, Bowie Capital, Asian Community Fund, and an anonymous foundation donated over INR 18 CR (15 CR within the first 48 hours). 145 donors and counting, contributed online at o2.tmc.navya.care.
Speaking of the support rendered, Dr. Badwe says, “It is indeed a very valuable service to the nation. I am much heartened by the way Indians abroad responded to the carrion call and extended hands in support.”
Deshpande attributes the success of this initiative to TMC, saying, “I’m impressed with how so many moving parts came together quickly. Donors trust the TMC name for its medical and ethical leadership. We know that TMC will reach and distribute these units to even the most remote areas. TMC's ability to manage the logistics, clear the customs and dispatch the units played a key role in starting to save lives right away."
As the FedEx cargo flight is being unloaded in Mumbai, and Air India in Delhi, the TMC team is hard at work—submitting the paperwork to clear customs and get things in place for the onward transport of the 3,800 oxygen concentrators that have just arrived to help India breathe easy. An additional 1,500 oxygen concentrators are planned to be delivered next week with FedEx and Air India.
Dr Badwe concludes, “We are facing difficult times, but with our preparedness and global support we should be able to overcome it. Hopefully with access to vaccination across the globe we should be able to offer protection to the entire humanity against the deadly virus.”
For more information, visit: https://o2.tmc.navya.care/
Who are the beneficiaries of the National Cancer Grid?
Maharashtra: B.K.L. Walawalkar Hospital, Diagnostic And Research Centre, Ratnagiri; Samarth Cancer, Laparoscopy and Maternity Hospital, Dhule; Sahyadri Hospitals Ltd, Pune
Mumbai and Navi Mumbai: Tata Memorial Hospital, ACTREC, KEM Hospital, BARC Hospital, Sion Hospital, Sir J.J. Group of Hospitals, CIDCO Covid facility, Sub District Hospital Panvel, Panvel, Covid Hospital, Kalamboli, Pramod Mahajan Covid hospital, Mira Bhayander Municipal Corporation , INHS Asvini, Kailash Kher Foundation, Giving Back
Punjab: Government of Punjab, Administration of Chandigarh, Christian Medical College Ludhiana, HBCH, Sangrur
Uttar Pradesh: HBCH & MPMMCC Varanasi; District Hospital Varanasi, SPHEEHA, Agra; Kamla Nehru Hospital Allahabad
Bihar: Government of Bihar, Patna; Savera Hospital, Patna; HBCHRC Muzaffrpur
New Delhi: Can Support, Odisha Positive
Madhya Pradesh: Cancer Hospital and Research Institute, Gwalior; Padhar Hospital; Shri Aurobindo Institute of Medical Science Indore, Vidya Cancer Hospital
Assam: Govt of Assam, BBCI Guwahati, Cachar Cancer Centre, Silchar
Mizoram: State Cancer Institute, Aizawl
West Bengal: Saroj Gupta Cancer Centre, Kolkata
Andhra Pradesh: Vishakhapatnam Municipal Commission, HBCHRC, Vizag
Karnataka: Sir Devaraj Urs Medical College ; Mazumdar Shaw Cancer Center; Narayana Cancer Centre: R B Patil Hospital, Hubli; Kidwai Memorial Institute of Oncology, Bengaluru; AarogyaSeva, Bangalore; Taluk Health Office and Hospital (Hanur and Ramapura) ; Victoria Hospital ; Vydehi Institute of Medical Sciences (VIMS), Yenepoya Medical College
Gujarat: The Gujarat Cancer & Research Institute, Ahmedabad; Kothari Onco Surgical Hospital; HCG Cancer Center Ahmedabad
Rajasthan: S.M.S. Hospital, Jaipur; Shalby Hospitals Jaipur ; Sri Ram Cancer Center, Mahatma Gandhi Medical College Hospital, Jaipur
Kerala: Malabar Cancer Center; St. Gregorios Medical Mission Multi-specialty Hospital; Believers Church Medical College Hospital
Tamil Nadu: CMC Vellore; GKNM Hospital
Tata Memorial Centre: Dr. Rajendra Badwe, +919619197639, firstname.lastname@example.org
National Cancer Grid: Dr. CS Pramesh, email@example.com
Navya: Gitika Srivastava, +16173351873, firstname.lastname@example.org
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