ERNAKULAM: Come rain or sunshine, Sunitha R is set to turn heads while zipping along the roads of Kochi in her autorickshaw ambulance ferrying Covid patients. Among the 18 volunteer drivers selected for the autorickshaw ambulance service, the 42-year-old is possibly the lone woman in the state to step forward to serve Covid patients in that manner.
The autorickshaw ambulance — a novel project mooted by the Kochi corporation in association with German development agency Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH — will be rolled out on Monday. “I know this is not an easy job. But during this pandemic, this is the best service I can offer society which is reeling in despair,” says Sunitha.
The autorickshaw ambulance will have medical oxygen facility and urgent medical care equipment, with drivers in PPE kits. She has been driving her autorickshaw around the state’s commercial capital for the past nine years. And she has seen how the city has evolved.
“There are a lot of people risking their lives by opting to work during the pandemic. I decided to take up the opportunity to be an autorickshaw ambulance driver and I’m happy to join the battle against Covid,” says Sunitha, a member of the CPM Kadavanthra local committee.
Sunitha also attended a training given by experts including doctors to become an autorickshaw ambulance driver, which dealt with how to interact with Covid patients, how to wear a PPE kit and safety measures to practise while on duty. Her commitment has drawn wide praise too. “This is a brave decision by Sunitha. The Kochi corporation will provide all support to the initiative,” says Mayor M Anilkumar.
The emergency service will start on Monday in the city to cater to the needs of Covid patients. The services include transporting them to hospitals, ensuring the supply of medicines, oximeter and thermometer for them en route, and facilitating the movement of medical staff to patients’ homes.
Daughter of the late Raghavan and Sumathi, Sunitha has two brothers. She lost her father 12 years ago. After completing pre-degree, she chose to study painting but could not continue in that field. In 2005, she obtained a driving license and opted to become an autorickshaw driver and bought an autorickshaw in 2012.
She operates out of the autorickshaw stand on KP Vallon Road alongside as many as 100 other autorickshaws. Everyone has been cooperative, she says. “I am happy with the job. The other drivers treated me more like a co-worker than a woman. I go on night trips too. But I have never had to face any issue as a woman,” she says.
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