A Canberra-based engineer is calling on the profession to provide assistance to India, as it battles high numbers of COVID-19 cases and a lack of medical equipment.
When Ambarish Natu’s maternal grandmother passed away last month in Sangli, in the western Indian state of Maharashtra, his mother, about 250 km away in Pune, was unable to get to her due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“The only way to travel is by road, and finding someone to travel with was very difficult because of the COVID situation,” Natu, a Chartered engineer and Fellow of Engineers Australia, told create.
“My mum also had to take care of my paternal grandmother, who is 102 years old, because her usual carer has stopped coming to their home because of the potential for COVID contamination.”
Natu’s mum ultimately made it to Sangli 10 days after his grandmother died. She was able to stay for four days before making the difficult trip home.
This is just one of millions of similar stories playing out across India, which has been hard hit by a resurgence of COVID-19, with new case numbers frequently reaching 400,000 each day.
It is second only to the United States in terms of the total number of cases, with a reported 23.3 million to date. More than 254,000 people have died, including an Australian man who was unable to return home after contracting the virus.
“The situation is so immensely grim, I told myself that I needed to do something,” Natu said. “If I can aid in raising awareness, that would be good to some extent.”
An acute shortage of oxygen and other medical equipment, as well as a lack of beds in many hospitals, is adding to the crisis.
One of the telltale symptoms of COVID-19 is shortness of breath, which can be followed by pneumonia as the lungs fill with fluid. In the most severe cases, COVID-19 can cause acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), which is a form of lung failure.
Patients with ARDS are often unable to breathe on their own and require support from a ventilator.
Because of this, oxygen is a crucial treatment for many patients with severe COVID-19.
India has been unable to keep up with demand for oxygen, with reports of hospitals pleading for supplies and families left to frantically source their own tanks.
Faced with such dire circumstances, Natu is calling on Australian engineers and manufacturers to band together to provide assistance by way of oxygen concentrators. These machines extract oxygen from the air and concentrate it for medical use.
The federal government sent 43 concentrators and 1056 ventilators to India last week, which will be distributed by the Indian Red Cross and local authorities to ensure support reaches those in greatest need.
Natu said a community group in Adelaide also recently sent a shipment of 45 of the machines to India, and he would like to see similar initiatives across the country.
“The oxygen concentrators operate on their own, without the need of actual oxygen cylinders, and are quite portable. That’s what is required,” the 2015 Canberra Professional Engineer of the Year said.
“I’m not a non-profit organisation, but I’m thinking like an engineer to find a solution to the problem, and I’m reaching out to other engineers.”
Would you like to help?
Click here to contact Ambarish Natu. A number of organisations are organising shipments of oxygen concentrators to India, including:
- Sewa International Australia: www.sewainternational.org.au/other-relief-appeals/india-needs-you-in-covid-19/
- Sewa Bharti Delhi: https://www.sewabharti.in/india-fights-corona
- The Hindu Council of Australia: https://hinducouncil.com.au/new/support-india-initiative/