When the Tamil Nadu CM Stalin answered an SOS call at the COVID-19 war room

Chennai resident Archana Padmakar had made a distress call to 104 on Friday night for a relative; the CM assured her of help and a bed was allocated at the Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital

Updated - November 30, 2021 06:33 pm IST

Published - May 15, 2021 01:45 pm IST - CHENNAI

When Chennai resident Archana Padmakar, made a call for a medical emergency, she was in for a surprise. Her late night distress call on Friday, to the COVID-19 war room seeking a bed for an elderly relative, was attended to by Chief Minister M.K. Stalin, who was on a visit to the facility. He promised her timely help. In 30 minutes, the patient, whose oxygen saturation levels had dropped to 84%, was allocated a bed at the Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital (RGGGH).

Ms. Padmakar, who is the deputy director of the Emergency Care and Recovery Centre, The Banyan, has been volunteering on social media to find beds for patients in need. “I have been volunteering on Instagram and Facebook groups. But this was the first time that I called the 104 helpline for my relative,” she said.

It all started at 8.30 p.m. on Friday when she received a call from her cousin. “My aunt was experiencing breathlessness and her oxygen saturation level dropped to 84%. I spent nearly 45 minutes calling nearly 10 hospitals, both in the government and private sector but did not get a bed. We did not want to take a risk considering her age. As they live near Nerkundram, she was taken to the casualty of a nearby private hospital. The hospital assured us they would provide oxygen support for two hours but said there were no beds to manage her beyond that,” she explained.

Faced with the need to shift her to another facility, Ms. Padmakar made a frantic call to the 104 helpline at about 11.15 p.m. “The first ring went unanswered. So, I called again. This time, a staff member answered the call and asked for the required information. After a while, he handed over the call to another person. I was so tense that little did I realise that I was speaking to the Chief Minister after he introduced himself. He asked for more information and assured help,” she said.

It was only a few minutes later that she realised it was the Chief Minister who was on the other end. “I was taken aback, and requested the staff member to allow me to talk to him again. I thanked the CM and appreciated the work being done. He realised that I was in a state of panic and calmed me down, and said they will find a bed for me,” she added.

In less than 15 minutes, her cousin received a phone call about a bed arranged at RGGGH. An ambulance shifted the patient to the hospital by 11.45 p.m. “It was a moment of luck for us,” she said. “The State government and the Health Department cannot do this alone, and it is a good thing that the Chennai community has come together in supporting each other. Our population is large and it’s difficult to manage in this pandemic situation,” she added.

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