CHENNAI: It’s 11 am on a Tuesday. Dr Charunjit Kaur keeps her phone close as she looks at the clock. A couple of minutes later the phone rings and she quickly picks it up. On the other end of the line, a to-be mother is due for her periodic check-up but hasn’t been able to reach the hospital because of the lockdown.
She has called to ask for professional help to make sure that her baby is fine. Dr Charunjit asks her a couple of questions to get an idea of the growth stage of the child. Once certain that the pregnancy is following a stable path, she points out that the mother shouldn’t be worried as all the vital signs of the child are normal. Relieved, the woman ends the call with a show of gratitude. For Charunjit, this was just one of the many calls she will have to answer that day.
“We have almost 25 women calling our virtual OPD (outpatient department) number every day. Most of them call because they don’t have access to a hospital or if they have observed a danger sign and need help with how to handle the problem,” says Dr Aparna Hegde, urogynaecologist and founder of ARMMAN, an NGO providing virtual solutions for pregnant women, and mothers.
Discovering a need to address the concerns of to-be and young mothers who’s access to their closest hospital is restricted because of the lockdown, Aparna immediately set up a national toll-free number that would directly connect them to volunteer gynaecologists and paediatricians. “This way, the mothers can expect a calculated consultation as they directly converse with doctors,” she adds.
For the 12-year-old Mumbai-based NGO, this was just a matter of adding to a programme they had already created for mothers — mMitra (Mobile Mitra). The initiative acts as a link between the doctor and patient. “We had already set up a call centre for our m-Mitra programme. All we had to do was create a pool of volunteering doctors, develop a national toll-free number via our systems and share it.
Unlike mMitra, the toll-free number we have set up to address concerns during the lockdown can be used by non-members as well. It also directly connects the caller to the doctor instead of our call center professional,” Aparna explains. So far, she has been able to set up a network of 50 gynaecologists and obstetricians, and 15 pediatricians to support the cause. “They are some of the best in the field and are prepared to address any motherhood or pregnancy-related concern,” she assures.