Mumbai: Though the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation is constantly urging citizens to use its existing helpline number, 1916, the reaction from both, Covid and non-Covid patients has been mixed.
Many of them have complained that this helpline is not all that helpful while some have said it's a waste of time. Civic officials have said that citizens should first contact their local ward office and police station and only after that should they call the helpline.
A 45-year-old Covid patient, who was admitted to the Bhabha Hospital in Kurla on May 16, wanted to move to a private hospital. But when he called 1916, he was asked to google the hospital number and check bed availability.
“I had read in the newspaper and have seen hoardings proclaiming that the BMC helpline number provides information on Covid hospitals, testing and availability of beds.
But it was clear that the employee fielding the calls did not have sufficient Covid details and instead, asked me to find more,” recalls Ramesh Jain, a resident of Vile Parle.
Additional Municipal Commissioner (health) Suresh Kakani, said, every citizen should contact the local ward office and local police station, if they are not happy with the information provided by the helpline number.
“We have been promoting the number of the local ward office control room, along with the helpline number. Citizens should complain if the helpline number operator does not provide information,” he said.
In another incident relating to a non-Covid patient with breathing problems who wanted to be hospitalised, the operator gave the caller the names of hospitals and asked them to personally call the hospitals to find out whether beds were available or not. “First of all, when we call, there is no one to receive our call. One has to try three or four times before getting through. Then there is a hold-time of 30 minutes.
Even after all this waiting, we do not get adequate information,” said Aiemy Sam, a Mahim resident. Health experts and activists say, during the pandemic it is non-Covid patients who are more affected than Covid patients, as the former have no idea which hospitals are non-Covid.
“For non-Covid patients, the BMC should upload a list of nonCOVID hospitals with their numbers on the website so that patients do not have to run from door to door, to get themselves admitted,” said Dr Abhijeet More, co-convener, Jan Arogya Abhiyan.