A doctor’s experience of volunteering medical relief

Dr Suthan Kaveri clearly remembered the early days of the floods, when on the afternoon of December 19, 2021, he visited a flood relief center located in Sekolah Jenis Kebangsaan (Tamil) Ladang Emerald, Taman Sri Muda.

He was there to distribute additional stocks of face masks that his company, ePink Health, had when he realized that the center was lacking medical vigilance.

Coming from a telemedicine platform, Dr Suthan knew he could leverage their network of doctors and other medical professionals to benefit flood victims.

So, he got to work by bringing in his internal teams and exploding messages to the healthcare professionals he knew to come and help them.

On the evening of December 19 itself, he assembled a team and set up an emergency clinic on the ground, dividing people into green, yellow and red zones based on the urgency of their medical needs.

A doctors experience of volunteering medical relief
Image Credit: ePink Health

Give meaning to chaos

The green areas were where flood victims suffering from colds, flu, coughs, fever, headaches, etc., were treated. In the yellow zone, Dr Suthan and his team were caring for people with low blood pressure, uncontrolled diabetes, hypertension, etc.

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Having a consultation with a displaced victim / Image credit: ePink Health

“The victims were stuck [in their locations] for 48 hours before being rescued, and their medication had already been washed away by the flood, ”Dr. Suthan revealed in an interview with Vulcan Post.

“For 48 hours, they took no medication. So definitely their blood pressure, their diabetes, was not under control.

During the 7 days that Dr Suthan and his team were at the center, he estimated that they distributed around RM50,000 worth of medicine.

These funds came from donors across Malaysia who paid directly to pharmacies, who then delivered the drugs to the team.

For patients who were in more serious conditions than drugs could control, the team had to stabilize them first before transferring them to the nearest hospitals.

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Dr Suthan said there were several children who collapsed from lack of food and water while awaiting relief as well / Image credit: ePink Health

Meanwhile, in the red zone, they had to resuscitate patients who had collapsed. As we browsed through the memories of Dr. Suthan’s events, he recalled one particularly momentous event they saw in the red zone: having to support a mother in preterm labor.

As he told the story, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the mother, imagining the anxiety she might have felt after being shocked by the flash floods, being moved, and then having given birth in a relief center filled with hundreds of people to thousands of other victims.

On the medics side, Dr Suthan relayed the adrenaline rush his team felt as they worked to stabilize her, until she was transported to a safer place to give birth.

From mass treatment to home visits

From his recollection, there has never been a slow day at the center, especially when they also had to be wary of the risks of COVID-19 infection.

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Image Credit: ePink Health

With so many people to treat and a team of around 30 to look after them all, the medical team found themselves spending most of their time at the center.

Dr Suthan himself said he spent more time there than at home during the week, even taking his shower and meals there.

On December 25, the center was closed, but wanting to continue volunteering, the ePink Health team opened a small medical booth deeper in Taman Sri Muda on December 27. They provided similar services until New Years Eve.

“Currently, we still have a drug balance. So what we do is home screening and free drug delivery, ”explained Dr Suthan.

The initiative began on January 7 and would be repeated every weekend for an indefinite period, at least until other clinics in Taman Sri Muda can reopen.

In total, he has a team of around 40 volunteers spread across the neighborhood to carry out the plan.

On a normal day, if the flooding had not happened, ePink Health would offer telehealth consultations with doctors, nutritionists, psychologists, etc., as well as online pharmacy services and home visits on demand.

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Image Credit: ePink Health

In the past month of flooding, however, volunteering has become the top priority, especially in the devastating first week.

Thus, its usual operations were temporarily suspended. However, with home testing and drug deliveries, Dr Suthan has arranged them for weekends specifically so that ePink Health can continue as usual Monday through Friday.

Move smarter and better prepared

Based on his experience at Taman Sri Muda, he had some farewell tips to share so that we are better prepared if similar natural disasters (fingers crossed) happen again.

“What we can do is scan simple medical records like what basic medications people are taking,” he noted.

“We can also make it known that if you are in a flood prone area and want to keep your IC, passport, please also package your chronic medications together. In this way, the problem of drug disposal can be avoided.

Resources permitting, medical teams could also set up rescue centers in advance once the nation has been warned of impending flash flooding or the like by MetMalaysia.

As for how ePink Health and similar digital healthcare companies can contribute more in this space, Dr Suthan said they have collected data on flood victims that they have treated.

“We dissected them based on severity, type of disease, and any acute conditions due to the flooding. “

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The ePink Health team with Dr Noor Hisham / Image credit: ePink Health

“Based on these, we can share the data with KKM to develop an appropriate plan to prepare for and better respond to these specific conditions if severe flooding recurs,” he said.

For example, if the data shows that a large number of chronic diabetic patients lost their drugs during the recent floods, for any future disaster, these drugs could be prepared in advance for deployment to relief centers.

Overall, what I learned from chatting with Dr Suthan is that the technology, data, and the private healthcare workforce are all readily available. We just need to make better use of them.

  • Read more flood related content here.

Image Credit Featured: Dr Suthan Kaveri, ePink Health

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