Dr. Suthan Kaveri could still clearly remember the first days of the floods when he visited a flood relief center in Sekolah Jenis Kebangsaan (Tamil) Ladang Emerald, Taman Sri Muda, on the afternoon of December 19, 2021.
He was there handing out additional stocks of face masks that his company, ePink Health, had when he discovered the center was lacking medical preparedness.
Since he was from a telemedicine platform, Dr. Suthan that he was able to use their network of doctors and other medical professionals for the benefit of the flood victims.
So he set about engaging his internal teams and sending messages to healthcare professionals that he knew should come and help.
On the evening of December 19, he put together a team and set up an emergency field clinic where people were divided into green, yellow and red zones depending on the emergency and medical need.
Image source: ePink Health
Understand the chaos
In the green zones, flood victims were treated with colds, flu, coughs, fevers, headaches and more. Over in the yellow zone, Dr. Suthan and his team around people with low blood pressure, uncontrolled diabetes, high blood pressure, etc.
Consultation with a displaced victim / Photo credit: ePink Health
"The flood victims were stuck (in their locations) for 48 hours before they were rescued, and their medicines had already been washed away by the flood," said Dr. Suthan in an interview with the Vulcan Post.
“They took no medication for 48 hours. So her blood pressure and diabetes were definitely not under control. "
In the 7 days that Dr. Suthan and his team were present at the center, he estimated they had given out drugs worth about RM50K.
These funds came from donors across Malaysia who paid direct to pharmacies who then delivered the drugs to the team.
For patients who were in a condition more severe than the medication could control, the team had to stabilize them first before they could be transferred to the nearest hospitals.
Dr. Suthan shared that there were several children who collapsed from lack of food and water while waiting for rescue / Image Credit: ePink Health
Meanwhile, they had to resuscitate patients who had collapsed in the red area. When we Dr. Going through Suthan's memories of events, he recalled one particularly impressive event they saw in the red zone – supporting a mother in premature labor.
As he retold the story, I couldn't help but feel sorry for the mother as I imagined the fear she might have felt when she was first shocked by the flash floods, displaced, and then in a relief center full of hundreds in labor had thousands of other victims.
On the side of the doctors, Dr. Suthan continued the adrenaline rush his team felt as they worked to stabilize her until she was transported to a safer location for childbirth.
From mass treatment to home visits
As he remembers, there has never been a slow day in the center, especially when one also had to be wary of the risks of COVID-19 infection.
Image source: ePink Health
With so many people to care for and a team of around 30 looking after everyone, the medical team spent most of their time in the center.
Dr. Suthan himself stated that he spent more time there during the week than at home, even showering and eating his meals there.
The center was closed on December 25th, but the ePink Health team wanted to open a small medical booth deeper in Taman Sri Muda on December 27th to continue their volunteer work. They performed similar services until New Year's Eve.
“At the moment, however, we still have a medication balance. So what we're doing is door-to-door screening and free drug delivery, ”shared Dr. Suthan with.
The initiative began on January 7th and should be repeated every weekend indefinitely, at least until the other clinics in Taman Sri Muda can reopen.
In total, he has a team of around 40 volunteers spread across the neighborhood to implement the plan.
On a normal day if the floods hadn't happened, ePink Health would offer telemedical advice from doctors, nutritionists, psychologists, and more, along with e-pharmacies and home visits upon request.
Image source: ePink Health
During the last month of flooding, however, volunteering became a top priority, especially in the first devastating week.
As a result, normal operations were temporarily put on hold. For door-to-door screenings and drug deliveries, Dr. Suthan, however, specifically for weekends so that ePink Health could continue to run as usual from Monday to Friday.
Moving forward smarter and better prepared
Based on his experience with Taman Sri Muda, he had some good-bye advice so that we are better prepared in case similar natural disasters (if I keep my fingers crossed) happen again.
“What we can do is digitize simple medical records, such as the basic medications that people are taking,” he noted.
"We can also point out that if you are in a flood-prone area and want to keep your IC, your passport, please pack your chronic medication as well." This can prevent medication from being washed away.
If resources allow, medical teams could also set up aid centers in advance as soon as the nation has been warned by MetMalaysia of impending flash floods or the like.
How ePink Health and similar digital health companies can further contribute in this area, said Dr. Suthan for collecting data on the flood victims they treated.
"We dissected them according to the severity, type of illnesses and acute conditions caused by the floods."
The ePink Health team with Dr. Noor Hisham / Image source: ePink Health
“Based on this data, we can share the data with the KKM in order to develop a suitable plan to better prepare and take into account these specific conditions in the event that severe flooding should occur again,” he said.
For example, if the data shows that many chronic diabetic patients lost their drugs in the recent floods, those drugs could be prepared in advance for use in relief centers for future disasters.
All in all, in a conversation with Dr. Suthan found that the technology, data and manpower from the private health sector are readily available. We just have to make better use of it.
- Read more about floods here.
Highlighted image source: Dr. Suthan Kaveri, ePink Health