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Ambulance convoy brings back 41 cancer patients stranded in Chennai
Forty-one cancer patients from West Bengal and Assam, stranded in Chennai for weeks due to the ongoing coronavirus-triggered lockdown, were able to reach home in a convoy of ambulances with the effort of some good samaritans.
The convoy of 35 ambulances set out from the Tamil Nadu capital on Tuesday with 41 patients, of whom 38 were from West Bengal and three from Assam, West Bengal Ham Radio Club founder Ambarish Nag Biswas said here on Sunday.
The three patients from Assam reached their destinations on Saturday, a day after the others from West Bengal had arrived. Biswas said that the ambulances commenced the journey back to Chennai on Sunday with some medicines and masks handed over by people here for their relatives who are in the southern city for treatment or other requirements.
The stranded patients had completed their treatment schedule at the hospitals, but were caught in the lockdown and were unable to return. "With some of them still weak from chemotherapy and other treatments, it was not possible for them to stay at lodges or rented places owing to the fear of catching coronavirus or other infections, while the hospital bills were shotting up," Biswas said.
While some of the stranded patients had money with them, others had very little to spare, he said. The situation of the patients came to the notice of Ham Radio Club members in Chennai, who got in touch with ambulance service providers and some local NGOs, he said.
A Nagarjuna of Chennai Ham Radio Club coordinated with Biswas in West Bengal to facilitate hassle-free journey for the patients. Members of the amateur club in Chennai arranged for some financial support from NGOs to make up for the shortfall as some patients did not have money with them, and also got the ambulance operators to settle for a reasonable rate.
The patients and the drivers were checked for the deadly virus before they left Chennai, and provided with certificates declaring them fit to travel and not suffering from COVID-19, since they would have to cross borders of three states before reaching their destinations, he said. Drinking water and dry food were provided in each vehicle for the patients and drivers, Biswas said.
On the way, the convoy had stopped at a few places. After the convoy reached Kharagpur in West Bengal, each vehicle proceeded towards its destination individually as movement of so many ambulances into the city at one go could have led to unnecessary attention and rumour, he said.
The patients who were brought back had given in writing that they would abide by health-related guidelines or quarantine requirements as asked by the local government authorities in places where they reside. Tahiruddin, a ham radio club member, who works in Assam Police, ensured the safe return of the three patients from Assam to their destinations after two ambulances carrying them crossed into the state, Biswas said.