Update On The Second Wave: A Letter From The CEO

Dear Friends of Calcutta Rescue,

As you know, we are in the midst of a terrible second wave which is becoming more brutal by the day. For that we have been preparing over the last 4 weeks – to protect our beneficiaries and staff. We are having frequent management meetings to assess the risks and figure out how best we can achieve optimal impact with limited resources, as well as decide which projects need to be suspended or adjusted until the situation returns to a safer level.

According to Hindustan Times, West Bengal on Tuesday reported its highest single-day deaths of 107 Covid-19 patients, which took the state’s death toll to 11,744, the health department had said in a bulletin. Meanwhile, a record number of new coronavirus disease cases were also registered, as the bulletin showed a single-day spike of 17,639 cases. West Bengal’s total Covid-19 infection tally currently stands at 8,98,533.

Two colleagues have come down with the virus – our longest serving doctor, Dr. Susmita Roy Choudhury, and one of our teachers Mayukh Chakraborty. These are our first colleagues in 4 months to have caught the virus. In total 11 staff have had COVID19.  I am glad to say that both are okay but very weak.

It is quite likely that Dr. Susmita’s symptoms could have been much more severe had she not been vaccinated. As CEO, this provides me with some relief that we are now relatively well protected to be able to continue to help our beneficiaries through the very troubling times that lie ahead.

A terrible second wave which is going to become more brutal in May. For that we have been preparing over the last 3 weeks – to protect our beneficiaries and staff. We are having frequent management meetings, the most recent of which was this morning, to assess the risks and decide what projects need to be suspended until the situation returns to a safer level.

Our immediate COVID specific work is as follows:

  1. Dealing with people exhibiting COVID symptoms
    • CR, with help of its UK doctors have drafted a clear COVID protocol.
    • CR has nine doctors, three of which are dedicated to dealing with people with symptoms.
    • CR has community healthcare workers (CHWs), similar to government ASHA workers, who live in the slums and have been trained by CR. Equipped with thermal guns and pulse oximeters, they will move around their communities identifying people exhibiting symptoms.
    • For any people with symptoms, they will be referred to our doctors who will consult with them either through phone or physically at one of our OPD clinics. For mild to moderate symptoms, our doctors will give advice and prescribe medication – dexamethasone and budesonide – to be taken at home.
    • Continous monitoring will be done remotely. If symptoms worsen and O2 levels fall, CR will activate its Quick Response Team who will try to ensure hospitalisation as quickly as possible.
    • However, while hospitalisation is likely to be delayed because of a lack of beds, CR will consider sending an oxygen cylinder to the person’s home.
  2. Vaccinations
    • Health education on the importance of vaccination
    • Incentivise beneficiaries to get vaccinated with nutrition packets and reimbursement of costs
    • Tie-up with local vaccination centres where CR will facilitate the vaccination of our beneficiaires, street and slum dwellers
    • Currently investigating the possibility of CR becoming a vaccination centre.
  3. Other Healthcare Services
    • With the healthcare system overrun, CR is continuing to provide its high quality primary healthcare services
    • While we have been doing home deliveries of medicines over the duration of the pandemic to a few of our most vulnerable patients, we have now decided to increase that activity. Logistically, it is complex as our patients suffering from cancer, HIV, leprosy, diabetes,TB, heart & kidney disease are located across 8 different districts of Bengal spanning hundreds of kilometres – north to south and east to west. We are now drafting the delivery schedule, and its execution will start from around May 7th. This is also necessary as the government has just announced restrictions of movement which is going to make it more difficult for our patients to travel to our clinics to collect their life-saving medication.
    • CR’s OPD clincis remain open to the poorest of the poor residing in Kolkata and surrounding districts. They will be assessed either physically at one of our fixed clinics or through tele-consultation with any one of our nine doctors
  4. Nutrition
    • For the most vulnerable – the very sick, the elderly, pregnant mothers and our students (in the absence of midday meals), CR will continue to provide and if needed, deliver, nutrition to the doorstep. With current government restrictions, economic activity will be curtailed, incomes will again reduce and food insecurity will increase.
  5. Education of street and slum children
    • The new double or triple mutant variant is having a bigger impact on children and young people. So four weeks ago, we suspended our hugely successful Education on Wheels project and we have closed our two schools again. This is a bitter blow to our oldest two year groups who were allowed to restart school in December, but the risks of transmission are just too great.
    • For the foreseeable future all teaching will be done online and over the phone. At least, thanks to many donors’ support last year, all of our students now have internet access. 
    • The work of our Covid Warriors – senior CR students who for months have been running awareness sessions in their communities about the need to wear masks, wash hands and get vaccinated, is also having a positive impact.

What we need

  • COVID medication – funding for dexamethasone, budesonide
  • Medical devices – thermal guns and pulse oximeters
  • Oxygen – cylinders and concentrators
  • Protection – PPE, N95 masks, 3-ply masks, nitrile gloves, head caps
  • Your encouraging messages of support – to keep us going through the next few months – please post on FB or Instagram.

Whatever happens, I want to assure you of our determination to continue to serve our beneficiaries as best we can throughout the coming period.

To end on a positive note, we are proud to have just won the Ladies Study Group Charitable Trust Annual Award 2020 for our outstanding support for West Bengal’s poorest people since the start of the pandemic. Though you may not have heard of the group, it is highly regarded in Kolkata, and the fact that it singled us out for the award from all NGO’s working in the state is a real feather in our cap, and it came with a Rs.200,000 prize. 

Thank you for taking the time to read this and for all your ongoing support. Together we can continue to ensure that those most affected by the Covid crisis are protected from its most damaging effects.