OxygenForIndia (OFI) was established to deliver life-saving medical oxygen to those who need it the most, as quickly as possible, informs Aparna Seethepalli, Spokesperson, OxygenForIndia, while also sharing more information about the initiative in an interview with Akanki Sharma
What’s the thought behind the “OxygenForIndia” initiative? How does this whole initiative work?
India is battling the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic. People are dying without medical oxygen because they cannot get a hospital bed, and there is no way for them to get medical oxygen at home. There is no specific database or helpline number to call for supplies. This has led desperate family members to rely on social media, which often leads to unreliable or outdated sources. OxygenForIndia (OFI) was established to deliver life-saving medical oxygen to those who need it the most, as quickly as possible. Our goal is to ensure that no one in India dies because of lack of medical oxygen.
In the interest of making sure that patients with the highest health and economic need are given the first priority, we have a triage system in place to handle oxygen cylinder and concentrator requests submitted online on our website.
How much funding has been raised till date and how many people have been catered to through this initiative?
OFI brings together a collective of medical and public health professionals and volunteers. It is funded through donations in India through Tech4Health Foundation, a registered non-profit with 12A registration and 80G tax exemption; and globally through Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy (CDDEP), a 501c3 organisation registered in the United States. Donations received in India and the US are tax-exempt.
Within a month of launching, the team of more than 120 volunteers and collaborating organisations have already raised $10 million in donations to purchase 20,000 concentrators and 40,000 reusable oxygen cylinders. Several Indian and US citizens and corporates like Yahoo, Logitech, UiPath and United Airlines, etc. have added to the momentum.
We are currently operating in Delhi, Hyderabad, Chennai, Chandigarh, Kolkata and Bengaluru. We will be expanding to Ranchi, Guwahati and a number of rural locations across multiple states in the days to come.
What kind of challenges have you faced in this journey and how did you overcome them?
We have faced a number of roadblocks in the speed of execution due to cancelled/postponed international shipments, changing regulations and lockdowns imposed at short notice (which vary from state to state in India).
However, with our dedicated team, committed on-the-ground partners, and assistance from local government bodies, we have been able to find ways to work with and through these issues, and will continue to do so.
What technologies are you using to implement this initiative?
We have used multiple SaaS systems to ensure a standard mechanism end-to-end across all the locations in the country. All the processes, right from patient intake to inventory management, are being run using Freshworks systems including Freshservice, Freshdesk, Freshcaller and Freshchat. This way, we have standardised processes across all locations and facilitated a centralised view of all operations.
Since COVID-19 has started hitting rural areas, how do you intend to enable last-mile delivery?
OxygenForIndia, through its implementation partner HealthCubed, is providing oxygen equipment on a fully returnable basis to support Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs)/hospitals/volunteer groups/clubs, primarily meeting oxygen-equipment needs in rural, small towns and peri-urban areas of India. We are targetting organisations serving rural communities to expand our reach and impact more people. We have successfully implemented this model in Pilani, Rajasthan, a remote town five hours from Delhi which was recently declared as a containment zone, and the town of Melmaruvathur, Tamil Nadu. We now plan to establish similar networks across rural India.
Any plans to tie up with the Government of India/state governments, or to ask them for funding towards this initiative? Is any government at the local/state/central level helping you with this at the moment?
So far, we have been functioning independently in all three domains of fundraising, procurement and deployment. We are in discussions with a few state governments to supply oxygen equipment to Primary Health Centres (PHCs) and Community Health Centres (CHCs).