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Dr Sanjay Paithankar with his team that collaborated with Dubai Health Authority and Dubai Police to conduct free screening of more than 300,000 blue-collar workers in Al Quoz and Dubai Investment Park. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Rising to the need of the hour, an Indian expatriate has organised several container loads of oxygen cynlinders and concetrators, approximately worth over Dh1 million, for India, free of cost.

Dr Sanjay Paithankar, a dedicated doctor and philanthropist from the UAE, has shipped about 600 oxygen concentrators and 200 cylinders with medical oxygen in the first consigment that is likely to reach the Indian shores in the next 15 days. Of these, about 150 oxygen concetrators have been air-lifted and will reach Nagpur by May 8.

Speaking to Gulf News about his Save India mission, Dr Paithankar said, “As soon as I heard about the oxygen shortage in my home town Nagpur and the Vidarbha region in Maharastra, I decided to reach out to like-minded friends there to see how we could all help. The response was quick and magnanimous and many contributed generously. In fact, one wealthy buinsessman who wished to remain anonymous, contributed 250 concentrators, in this consignment,” said Dr Paithankar who has personally chipped in a sum of Dh200,000 to organise the concentrators and cylinders.

Since there is a shortage of concetrators and oxygen cylinders, sourcing them was a challenge. Dr Paithankar said, “I decided to source the cylinders and concentrators from around the world to reach India as quickly as possible. I was finally able to source these in China and the first consignment will be in Mumbai via Thailand and Singapore in the next 15 days. For the next batches, I am working to air-lift the cargo for quicker delivery and these efforts are ongoing. I have started this work and will do my best to serve my motherland to the best of my capacity,” said Dr Paithankar, who has spent three decades in the UAE. A large portion of thisn period has been dedicated to providing affordable health care to the underprivileged in the UAE.

Reaching out to the sick and needy

A recipient of the 10-year Golden Visa, Dr Paithankar is the managing director of Right Health Group that provides affordable health care to the doorstep of the labour workforce of UAE with over the clinics across Dubai and Northern Emirates. By charging a subsidised price for consultation, treatment and medicines in the last 32 years, he has made it possible for blue-collar workers to get complete access to quality health care within their basic health insurance. Where the worker is unable to meet the expense of co-payment, Dr Paithankar has never turned away a worker from getting the medical help he requires.

Battling early COVID-19 transmission

During the earliest phase of the outbreak of COVID-19 in the UAE in March 2020, Dr Paithankar and his health care team played a very crucial role by organising free screening camps for all blue collar workers to prevent transmisison and spread of the disease.

In the earliest stages when people in the UAE were still discovering the lethal impact of the COVID-19, Dr Paithankar joined hands with the Dubai Health Authority and Dubai Police to assist them in screening all blue collar workers. It was a mammoth task which required a lot of manpower as several thousand blue collar workes, the weakest chain in the link, had to be screened, diagnosed, quarnatined or hosptialised.

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Workers await their turn at a COVID-19 screening camp in Dubai. Image Credit: Supplied

COVID-19 screening

DHA and Dubai Police had set up medical screening camps near various labour camps in early March 2020. At such a juncture, when there was strong need for health care workers to step up and come forward to offer their services, one man decided to brush aside all other concerns for self-preservation and collaborate extensively and unconditionally with the government.

With clinics located close to all labour camps, Dr Paithankar and health care workers had the best accessibility and reach to the workers. “This was my way of giving back to the UAE, a country that has given me so much in the last three decades. I decided to collaborate with the government and offer my services right away as DHA and Dubai Police set up the screening tents near the labour camps at Dubai Investment Park, Jebel Ali, Al Quoz and right up to the emirate of Ajman in all our 25 Right Health clinics.”

This was a nascent period when information about the virus was still very limited. Dr Paithankar added, “At that moment, we had no idea of how lethal the virus was and we were using the basic protective equipment. We would screen all those who came with symptoms of cough, cold and fever. Those who fit the profile of being infected with COVID-19 were sent for testing to DHA designated centres. We worked closely with the authorities and were screening up to 3,500 workers per day. Of these, nearly 200-300 were sent for RT-PCR testing as in those days, the PCR test was a new diagnostic tool and was limited to a few places. At all the camps, we were putting in long hours during the earliest days of the pandemic. I had recruited extra staff and cancelled annual leave of all my staff and we were putting in over 14 hours of work per day, from 9am to 11pm,” recounted the doctor.

Controlling community transmissions

It was this rapid screening, segregation and isolation which proved to be very effective in those early days in controlling community transmission rates. In the next three months, as the government set up field hospitals, designated hotels etc, it became easier to grade patients into mild, moderate and severe cases. Those who had mild conditions could isolate at hotel rooms, while those who were moderately affected were sent to field hospitals and those who were in severe or critical conditions and required ventilator support were admitted into the COVID-19 Intensive Care Units of hospitals. However, early mass testing of blue-collar workers went a long way in containing the infection rate.

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Dr Sanjay Paithankar (centre) with members of the Right Health Team. Image Credit: Supplied

Over 300,000 workers screened from March-May 2020, free of cost

“In those three months from March to May 2020, we helped screen over 300,000 blue collar workers across all our 25 clinics and about five per cent of these required hospital admissions,” added Dr Paithankar.

Today, with the worst of the pandemic behind him, Dr Paithankar and his team continues to serve the workers with heavily subsidised health packages. “We try to make the entire package as affordable to the worker without compromising on the quality of service. From consultation to diagnostics to medication, we provide packages from Dh9 to Dh120, all-inclusive. In most cases, the workers’ Essential Basic Plan (EBP) is able to cover this cost. Wherever we find workers unable to pay, because they are in between jobs or their health insurance has expired, I never charge them at all. I let them avail the treatment and I must commend the integrity of these workers who actually always make it a point to come and repay their outstanding amount whenever they are reinstated into jobs or have the money,” said Dr Paithankar.

Right Health is able to cater to about 100,000 workers per month and about 1.2 million annually, at the moment. “We aim to work more efficiently and take this number up to 1.8 million by 2022,” explained Dr Paithankar.

“The doctors who we hire have a vast body of experience and are experts at taking detailed case histories and prescribing only tests that are essential. In fact, we monitor the number of tests a doctor prescribes and incentivise those who have success with patients with lower number of prescribed tests. This helps in keeping the cost down. We try and offer all other subsidies that accrue to us as a group to the workers. This has worked to the benefit of workers,” added Dr Paithankar.

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The pharmacy in Dubai run by an all-women staff. Image Credit: Supplied

All-woman pharmacy at Muhaisnah

The group has also set up an all-women pharmacy in Muhaisnah, Dubai, this month. “We decided to have this all-woman pharmacy as we realised that many female workers employed in hotels, saloons etc had several inhibitions discussing their health care issues with male pharmacists. Providing female pharmacists has helped these female workers to share their health issues and be more open about seeking medical help. We have a female service staff of five, two in the morning and two in the evening. The pharmacy is open right from 7am up to 11pm,” said Dr Paithankar.

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Karama clinic

With the success of his clinics, Dr Paithankar is all set to open a state-of-the-art centre in Karama, which will include a comprehensive diagnostic and treatment centre. “This will be working on the hub-and-spoke model, wherein this centre will be the hub and all other clinics across all labour camps in Dubai and the Northern Emirates will be able to send in patients for advanced consultations and examinations here. We want blue collar workers to get access to the best diagnostics and speciality consultations which will be possible at this centre,” said Dr Paithankar.