A telemedicine initiative by farmers to fight COVID-19

‘Gramina Janara Corona Seva Pade’ provides telemedicine and general advisory to the rural populace.   | Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

The surge in COVID-19 cases in rural areas and the lack of adequate beds in hospitals have led to some out-of-the box thinking from a group of farmers to make consultation available by phone.

This is resulting in early identification of symptoms and commencement of treatment to help avoid hospitalisation and deterioration of health to the point where oxygen saturation level dips and ventilator or oxygenated beds, which are increasingly difficult to come by, are needed. An initiative of the Karnataka State Sugarcane Cultivators Association, called ‘Gramina Janara Corona Seva Pade’, was launched recently with a helpline (97400 69310) dedicated to creating awareness on early diagnosis and treatment.

The group includes specialist doctors as well and its objective is to infuse confidence among people who contract COVID-19 and allay fears which are resulting in people hiding early symptoms and refusing to get tested fearing isolation or quarantine, said Kurubur Shanthakumar, president of Karnataka Sugarcane Cultivators’ Association.

As this group has been floated by farmers, rural folk feel more confident in speaking out and are not hesitant to seek advice, as a result of which there are days when between 40 to 60 callers are received and counselled on phone, explained Chinnaswamy Vaddagere, who writes on agricultural issues in the local media and is member of the group.

“There was this farmer from H.D. Kote who lived in a remote hamlet bordering the forests and called the helpline as there were no doctors or private health facility in his vicinity. The doctor who attended to the caller learnt of the symptoms and prescribed the medicines, besides advising him to take rest. He recovered totally and called back to express his gratitude,” said Mr. Shanthakumar.

Another farmer, from Jayapura, cited his symptoms and the doctors called him for testing before commencing treatment.

“In a crisis period, timely advice and information is crucial and this is what the WhatsApp group is doing,” said Mr. Shanthakumar.

Apart from telemedicine, the group also gives thrust to dispelling vaccine hesitancy among the rural populace. Though it was initially meant to counsel farmers in Mysuru and Chamarajanagar, the number has been forwarded to other networks of farmers and the general rural populace, as a result of which there have been calls for assistance, information, and counselling from many other districts as well.

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Printable version | Jun 25, 2021 10:34:29 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/a-telemedicine-initiative-by-farmers-to-fight-covid-19/article34582680.ece

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