What is the value of a helpdesk in COVID times?
What is the value of a helpdesk in COVID times? AID has made it a priority to support several partners who are running helpdesks, helplines or call centres. These services are mainly directed at marginalized communities in rural areas. In such communities, it is very difficult to get clear advice about when to admit someone to the hospital, what medicines to take, or what protocols to follow at home. Helpdesks with trained staff can provide support in answering these difficult questions, and reduce the burden on hospitals.
AID’s longtime partner SATHI was one of the first to start a helpdesk service in districts of rural Maharashtra. Due to the success of this model, SATHI is now training volunteers in 22 blocks in order to scale up this initiative.
Another major partner, SOCHARA, is running a toll free call centre along with the YuMetta Foundation. Manned by trained doctors and psychologists, this service is also intended to alleviate mental health problems that have been exacerbated during the pandemic.
A helpdesk allows focussed care to be given to people from marginalized communities, who would otherwise be denied it. Swanirvar is running a help center with a 24/7 helpline for those in the Sundarban areas of West Bengal. It is collecting contact information of migrant laborers displaced by the pandemic, and is working to connect them with the government system.
AID has also been holding regular Zoom calls with grassroots activists on public health issues. The aim is to spread awareness about essential COVID protocols such as mask wearing and hand washing. These calls, run by volunteers who are also trained doctors, help in countering the misinformation that is wreaking havoc with our public health response.
Finally, helpdesks are a practical way to ensure that patients’ rights are respected by hospitals and other services. Across India, people have been charged exhorbitant rates for basic services that should be available to everyone. By telling patients their rights, helpdesk volunteers are doing their bit to prevent disadvantaged communities from getting cheated.
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