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How volunteers are keeping covid patients spirits up

LabourNet’s network of 1,100 volunteers has assisted more than 10,000 covid patients through its 24/7 helpdesk

The organisation is guiding underprivileged to register and schedule their vaccine appointments.

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In most hospitals in Bengaluru, as distraught families try to find beds, oxygen and medicines, there’s often a quiet volunteer helping them out, guiding them through the red tape, or soothing their anxieties. More often than not, these volunteers are from LabourNet, a social enterprise founded by Gayathri Vasudevan and that usually works on enabling sustainable livelihoods.

For the past 12-15 months, Vasudevan and her network of 1,100 volunteers have assisted more than 10,000 covid patients through their 24/7 helpdesk. From helping them get oxygen concentrators to enabling the underprivileged to register for vaccination to cleaning and disinfecting public areas, LabourNet’s work is invisible but everywhere.

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“We decided to intervene in a holistic manner rather than look at one vertical in critical care,” says Dr. Gayathri Vasudevan, chairperson and co-Founder, LabourNet Services India. For instance, facilities have been set up in government and private hospitals to assist Covid-19 patients and their family members. “The kiosks are manned by dedicated and qualified staff and are functional 24/7. Our volunteers take care of the incoming patient’s needs right from testing and ambulance support to patient admission, bed allocation and provision of medicines. We also provide mental and emotional support by keeping in touch with patients’ families,” she says.

When senior citizen Nirmala Venkataramanan contracted Covid-19, she was most anxious about being left alone in the hospital. “I had never been without my family for so many days. The LabourNet volunteers checked on me daily, kept up my spirits and I believe they actually saved my life with their constant care and attention,” she says.

With vaccination being the next big task to contain the virus, Vasudevan’s team has started helping the underprivileged navigate the complex procedures on the Co-Win website and app. Their intervention includes assistance in Co-Win registration, vaccination scheduling and execution along with a follow up and tele-consultation with a doctor.

LabourNet has set up three covid care centres with about 100 beds, oxygen supply and other medical resources in Bijapur and one in Bengaluru.
LabourNet has set up three covid care centres with about 100 beds, oxygen supply and other medical resources in Bijapur and one in Bengaluru. (LabourNet)

Since it was founded in 2008, LabourNet has helped more than 10 lakh people get a livelihood by incubating 13,000 micro-enterprises. They had networks in place which could be seamlessly adapted to pandemic relief work, and set up “transitory centres” to tend to the less seriously ill.

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“With hospitals being overwhelmed and admissions exceeding resources, patients with mild symptoms who cannot be isolated at home are cared for at these transitory centres,” she says.

There are three covid care centres in Bijapur and one in Bengaluru . Each centre has up to 100 beds with a dependable oxygen supply, essential equipment and medicines. “Home care centres and hotel care centres are also being set up to provide tele-consultation for those isolated at home,” she says.

When hospitals faced a staff shortage, LabourNet's SahiWork staffing initiative, which has a database of skilled workers, came to the rescue, supporting hospitals with administrative assistants, technicians, and hygiene and sanitation staff. Vasudevan says they have now expanded their services to cities in West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Goa and Andhra Pradesh and even give rations to those in need.

The writer us co founder of Antardwani, a Bengaluru-based think tank focused on health and education.

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