Dr Suthan Kaveri could recall clearly the first few days of the floods, when on the afternoon of December 19, 2021, he visited a flood relief centre set up in Sekolah Jenis Kebangsaan (Tamil) Ladang Emerald, Taman Sri Muda.
He was there to distribute extra stocks of face masks that his company, ePink Health, had when he came to the realisation that the centre lacked medical standby.
Being from a telemedicine platform, Dr Suthan knew he could leverage their network of doctors and other medical professionals to the benefit of the flood victims.
So, he set to work bringing in his internal teams and blasting messages to medical professionals he knew to come and help out.
By the evening of December 19 itself, he’d assembled a team and set up an emergency field clinic, segregating people into green, yellow, and red zones based on the emergency of their medical needs.
Making sense of the chaos
The green zones were where flood victims with common colds, the flu, coughing, fever, headaches, and more, would get treated. Over in the yellow zone, Dr Suthan and his team were tending to those with low blood pressure, uncontrolled diabetes, hypertension, etc.
“The flood victims were stuck [in their locations] for 48 hours before being rescued, and their medications had already been washed away by the flood,” Dr Suthan revealed in an interview with Vulcan Post.
“For 48 hours, they didn’t take any medication. So definitely, their blood pressure, diabetes, weren’t under control.”
In the 7 days that Dr Suthan and his team were present at the centre, he estimated that they gave out about RM50K worth of medication.
These funds came from donors all around Malaysia who paid directly to pharmacies, who then delivered the medication to the team.
For patients who were in more severe states than the medication could control, the team had to stabilise them first before transferring them to the nearest hospitals.
Meanwhile, in the red zone, they had to resuscitate patients who had collapsed. As we cycled through Dr Suthan’s memories of events, he recalled a particularly impactful one they saw in the red zone—having to support a mother who was going through preterm labour.
While he retold the story, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the mother, imagining the anxiety she might’ve felt from first being shocked over the flash floods, getting displaced, then going into labour in a relief centre full of hundreds to thousands of other victims.
On the doctors’ end, Dr Suthan relayed the adrenaline rush his team felt as they worked to stabilise her, all the way up until she was transported to a safer location to give birth.
From mass treatment to house calls
From his recollection, there was never a slow day at the centre, especially when they had to be wary of COVID-19 infection risks too.
With so many people to care for and a team of about 30 to tend to all, the medical team found themselves spending most of their time at the centre.
Dr Suthan himself stated that he spent more time there than at home for the week, even showering and having his meals there.
By December 25, the centre was closed, but wanting to continue volunteering, the ePink Health team opened a small medical booth deeper into Taman Sri Muda on December 27. They carried out similar services up until New Year’s Eve.
“Currently, we still have a balance of medication though. So, what we’re doing are a house-to-house screening and free medication delivery,” Dr Suthan shared.
The initiative began on January 7, and would be repeated every weekend for an indefinite duration, at least until the other clinics in Taman Sri Muda are able to reopen.
Altogether, he has a team of about 40 volunteers spread out across the neighbourhood to execute the plan.
On a regular day if the floods hadn’t happened, ePink Health would be offering telehealth consultations from doctors, nutritionists, psychologists, and more, along with e-pharmacy services, and house calls upon request.
During the past month of floods, however, volunteering became the top priority especially in the first devastating week.
Thus, its usual operations were put on hold momentarily. With the house-to-house screening and medication deliveries though, Dr Suthan arranged them for weekends specifically so that ePink Health could continue as usual from Mondays to Fridays.
Moving forward smarter and better prepared
Based on his experience at Taman Sri Muda, he had some parting advice to share in order for us to be better prepared should similar natural disasters (crossing my fingers) happen again.
“What we can do is digitalise simple medical records, like what are the basic medications people are taking,” he noted.
“We can also spread awareness that if you are in a flood-prone area and want to save your IC, passport, please package your chronic medication together too.” This way, the issue of medication getting washed away can be prevented.
If resources permit, medical teams could set up relief centres in advance too once the nation has been warned about impending flash floods or similar by MetMalaysia.
As for how ePink Health and similar digital healthcare companies can further contribute in this space, Dr Suthan said that they had been collecting data of the flood victims they treated.
“We have dissected them according to the severity, type of diseases, and any acute conditions that arose due to the floods.”
“Based on these, we can share the data with KKM to come up with a proper plan to prepare and cater better to those specific conditions should serious floods happen again,” he said.
For example, if the data shows that there were lots of chronically diabetic patients who lost their medications in the recent floods, for any future disasters, such medication could be prepared in advance for deployment to relief centres.
In all, what I garnered from speaking to Dr Suthan was that the technology, data, and manpower from the private healthcare sector are all readily available. We just need to harness them better.
- Read more flood-related content here.
Featured Image Credit: Dr Suthan Kaveri, ePink Health