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  • Writer's pictureKathryn Stagg

The Drivers Volunteering to Get People to Hospitals

Ambulance in motion traveling down street
Photo by camilo jimenez on Unsplash

Amidst all the distressing and bleak news that surrounds us this days, it's always nice to see a positive news story, especially one that highlights the way that kindness and togetherness can blossom in a time of crisis.

One such positive bit of news comes from Singapore, where many drivers across the country have stepped up and volunteered to drive people who believe they may have COVID-19 to the hospital. In an article by Channel News Asia, Lianne Chia and Anne-Marie Lim report that, as part of a new government service called GrabResponse, more than 500 drivers have stepped forward to provide a vital service for the fellow countrymen in need.

"The GrabResponse service, piloted in late March, is part of a Ministry of Health (MOH) initiative that ropes in drivers of private-hire vehicles and taxis to convey "stable and clinically well" people suspected of having COVID-19 to hospitals."

For many who are feeling ill and who are presenting symptoms of COVID, getting to the hospital can be a trial. Without a vehicle, these patients have to choose between calling an ambulance or exposing friends, family, or unaware taxi drivers to the virus. In Singapore, as in other places, ambulances and paramedics are stretched thin dealing with the crisis and, for potential COVID-patients whose symptoms are mild and who have not tested positive yet, not always a viable option.

The government program GrabResponse was created to help overloaded ambulatory services while also providing a safe way for both patients and drivers to get to the hospital. But it couldn't be done without drivers, many of whom are taxi drivers by profession, that are willing to volunteer and put themselves on the line for others.

While there is always a risk involved when in close contact with potential COVID carriers, the program goes to extraordinary lengths to protect their drivers. GrabResponse drivers operate their own vehicles, but during the duration of their involvement with the program, the vehicles are exclusively used for taking people to the hospital. While in the vehicle, drivers are outfitted with Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) at all times, which includes masks, gowns, gloves and goggles. During the duration of the trip, the windows must be kept rolled down to increase air circulation, and after each trip, the driver takes their vehicle to a decontamination site where it is sanitized.

While the list of requirements and precautions that need to be taken are extensive, it means that drivers remain safe while still providing an essential service. And for many drivers, the reward is in helping their community and being able to provide for someone in a moment that is filled with anxiety and fear.

For more on this story, check out the original article at Channel News Asia.


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