Travel restrictions due to nationwide lockdown, unavailability of medicines and lack of access to good healthcare facilities due to Covid-19 have left thousands of pregnant women anxious across the country. Pregnant women were missing their antenatal visits and check-ups and this was making them anxious and nervous.
As per the new guidelines issued for Lockdown 2.0, hospitals, nursing homes, clinics, tele-medicine facilities, dispensaries will be allowed to function but with social distancing and with only 50 per cent of the staff.
However, earlier all private clinics and OPDs were shut down during Lockdown 1.0 leading to an extremely critical situation. The latest guidelines issued by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) state that pregnant women with heart disease are at “highest risk”.
In the current situation, pregnant women and mothers with young children are particularly vulnerable as they need regular checkups but the outpatient departments of most hospitals are either focused on the general population for Covid-19 or not operating at full capacity.
To address this gap, ARMMAN, a Mumbai-based NGO has launched a pan-India free virtual OPD system for pregnant women and children this week with the help of volunteer doctors. Obstetricians and Paediatricians can be contacted directly on a toll-free number, 1-800-212-1425 to answer antenatal and paediatric queries.
This comes after the NGO received an overwhelming response to a similar initiative last week in Mumbai and Aurangabad.
Free Virtual OPD for pregnant women and children across India
Key details are mentioned below:
— Free Virtual OPD Toll-free Number: 1-800-212-1425
— Target Group: Pregnant women and Children
— Timings: Monday-Saturday
—‹ 11 am - 3 pm: Pregnant Women (ANC OPD)
—‹ 3 pm - 7 pm: Children (Paediatric OPD)
— Doctors Available: Obstetricians and Paediatricians
— Available Languages: Hindi and English
ARMMAN’s founder Dr Aparna Hegde, a practicing urogynaecologist told Moneylife “Currently we have the capacity to receive 250 calls a day, each of minimum 10 minutes duration”.
They already have 50 obstetricians as a part of the virtual OPD and an equal number of paediatricians are expected to join.
During her residency in obstetrics and gynaecology at Sion hospital in Mumbai, Dr. Aparna Hegde witnessed how pervasive systemic problems in the provision of health care to underprivileged pregnant women and children led to deaths that were actually preventable.
Outside of Corona virus, India has the worst numbers of maternal health in the world. A woman dies every 15 minutes in India due to complications related to childbirth. Two kids under five die every minute in India.
She observed that hospitals are overcrowded which meant that pregnant women end up waiting for long hours for their turn. When there is an emergency, it is difficult to get admission into a hospital.
Even when patients are taken to a hospital, the hospitals are often not sufficiently equipped (especially in rural districts). Just as her residency at Sion hospital was ending, mobile phones started making an appearance in India.
Within a few years, every home in India (including rural regions) had a mobile phone. She hit on an idea of how these ubiquitous cell phones could be used to save pregnant women’s lives.
She founded ARMMAN (Advancing Reduction in Mortality and Morbidity of Mothers, Children and Neonates; www.armman.org), a non-profit dedicated to designing cost-effective solutions at scale for complex health care problems. ARMMAN also means a deep desire or wish to see that no woman or child dies in the country for want of care.
Dr. Hegde is also one of very few trained urogynaecologists and pelvic floor reconstructive surgeons in the country today. She was awarded the International Urogynecological Association (IUGA) Fellowship in Urogynecology and Reconstructive Pelvic Surgery, which she completed in the renowned department of Urogynecology at Cleveland Clinic Florida in 2013 before returning to India.
Dr Hegde came back from the US after her fellowship in Urogynaecology and in addition to her private practice, wanted to build a comprehensive department of Urogynaecology with a University recognized fellowship and research, India's first, that will give the best care to the poorest. Tata Trusts and Govt of Maharashtra came together to give her space at Cama hospital and also funding support from Tata Trusts to build it.
ARMMAN’s projects; mMitra, Kilkari, Mobile Academy and Arogya Sakhi Home-based Antenatal and Infancy Care programme will impact the lives of millions every year. The NGO works in 16 states of India, partners with 100 hospitals and 43 NGOs, and has reached more than 18 million women and their kids.
ARMMAN has expanded access to preventative care information and services for mothers during pregnancy and children up to the age of one, through mobile technology, along with training of frontline health workers (ASHAs). It is using a ‘tech plus touch’ model to work at scale – leveraging the existing frontline health worker network of the government and partner NGOs, alongside the ubiquity of mobile phones. mMitra was awarded the “People Choice’s Award” at the Saving Lives at Birth grant event in Washington DC in 2011.
Earlier this month, ARMMAN won the prestigious $ 1.5 million Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship 2020 for its exceptional work in the maternal and child health space.
Using free voice call services mMitra and Kilkari, ARMMAN sends timed and targeted preventive care information weekly to mothers during pregnancy and infancy.
ARMMAN is also implementing an IVR-based training course to train frontline health workers in life-saving preventive health behaviors. Both Kilkari and Mobile Academy are implemented in partnership with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), Government of India.