Last year, during his visit to Israel, Prime Minister Narendra Modi met with Eli Beer, the founder of United Hatzalah of Israel, the fastest free medical service in the world. Inspired by Beer’s extraordinary network of volunteer paramedics, who save a life in seconds, the PM expressed his aim to create a similar community-based emergency medical service in India, where healthcare in remote areas is still a major concern.
No one has ever become poor by giving
– Anne Frank
Support the cause you care for. Browse All Campaigns
Every year, millions of people succumb to death in cases of medical emergencies, primarily due to the slow response rate of ambulances. On average, ambulance services in the most developed countries like the USA or European nations have clocked the time range of response between eight to ten minutes. But medical experts all over the world agree unanimously that the first three minutes after an accident, heart attack or a cerebral stroke comprise the most crucial time to save a life.
Larger in size than standard four-wheelers, a fully-equipped ambulance needs to bypass traffic, narrow roads and other roadside hindrances before reaching a patient in distress. This delay, even if by a few minutes, contributes to the death of millions every year.
To combat this problem, Eli Beer, the founder of United Hatzalah of Israel, from Israel came up with a unique solution. He replaced the ambulance with the “ambucycle” – a motorcycle equipped with an emergency medication kit – and registered the help of thousands of volunteers. His non-profit organisation has saved countless lives so far by offering immediate life-saving medical service free of charge.
United Hatzalah of Israel trains volunteers into paramedics
As stated in their website, United Hatzalah of Israel is active 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
As a teenager, founder Eli Beer had experienced the aftermath of a bus bombing in his area, when he realised the drawbacks of the existing emergency response service in the country. In 1992, he started his one-of-a-kind mission to save more lives. Instead of restricting medical service exclusively within medical experts, Eli broadened the horizon of medical service to rope in volunteers from all walks of life. He trained everyone for months who became adept paramedics and were then provided with iconic “ambucycles” and medical supplies.
How the United Hatzalah of Israel’s ambucycles work
In over twenty-five years, the number of volunteers in the United Hatzalah of Israel has reached five thousand. They work tirelessly in sync with an extensive network, registering a record response time of 3 minutes all over the country, and an astounding 90 seconds in metropolitan areas.
Each emergency call is picked up within three seconds and immediately the closest volunteer is contacted by the control room, who then rushes to the spot and provides the necessary help till an ambulance arrives to take the patient to the hospital.
Recounting how the organisation saved his life, an accident victim has shared how a group of volunteers turned up instantly upon receiving a call from a passerby. The expertise of the volunteers helped to identify the nature of his injuries and direct him to the best hospital without delay. The team also informed and supported his wife until he was out of danger. Not only this, but some of his lifesavers also visited him later to wish a faster recovery.
Putting humanity first
United Hatzalah of Israel is now officially the fastest and cheapest medical service in the world. Today their outreach is worldwide, with centres in USA, UK, France and Canada.
This is one of the most impressive things I've seen in a while. It's worth your time and your friends' time. The people at United Hatzalah of Israel are doing incredible work. All for free. All to save lives. Here is how they did it. Thank you Eli Beer and the team of volunteers for reaching out to Nas Daily and letting me film your operations. All around impressive.INSTAGRAM: @NasDailyGROUP: Nas Daily Global
Nas Daily ಅವರಿಂದ ಈ ದಿನದಂದು ಪೋಸ್ಟ್ ಮಾಡಲಾಗಿದೆ ಬುಧವಾರ, ನವೆಂಬರ್ 7, 2018
Eli Beer, who is a Jew recalls that when his own father suffered a cardiac attack, the first responder was a Muslim person. Thus, another important aspect of his organisation, as subtly evident from their name, is inclusivity. The organisation constitutes volunteers from all age, gender, religion, race and profession – who prioritise saving lives above everything. Without wasting one second to think about the race, caste or religion of the patient, the volunteers suspend their personal activities to save humanity.
A person suffering from Tuberculosis (TB) not only battles the ‘Mycobacterium tuberculosis’ bacteria inside his lungs but also from the stigma attached to the disease. It weakens the patients in many different ways in their fight against the dreaded disease.
My fight with TB was also filled with stigma. I joined IIT Kharagpur for my PhD in January 2015. Two months later, in March 2015, I was diagnosed with TB. I had to take sick leave from March 2015 that eventually lasted till June 2016. Initially, I did not respond well to medication. Further tests revealed that I had multidrug-resistant TB (MDR TB). This meant that the type of TB I had was resistant to two or more of the antitubercular medication I was taking.
About a year after the intensive phase of my treatment, I felt better and applied for readmission to IIT in July 2016. A prerequisite for rejoining was that my faculty members had to verify my application. With the formalities completed, I resumed my education, but I felt that something was amiss.
My guide indicated that he did not want his work to suffer on account of my illness. I also heard from a senior colleague that my guide had said that I would spread the disease like an ‘infested animal’. I was disheartened at being subjected to this indignity by my supposed mentor.
However, my primary concern was defeating TB, so I didn’t dwell on it. Today, as I reflect on it, I realise the reasons behind the stigma were ignorance as well as fear.
Even among the educated, there are misconceptions about TB. People think all forms of TB are contagious. Others believe the patient is infectious for the entire length of the treatment. Some even believe that TB spreads through touch. This breeds the fear of contracting the illness.
As we know, people stigmatise and discriminate when they fear. I felt the impact of the stigma on two levels – in my professional life and my personal life.
Support the cause you care for. Browse All Campaigns
Professionally, the reluctance of my supervisor to mentor me and his discouragement affected me. I could not decide whether I should wait for the IIT authorities to tell me to leave or drop out. That decision was made for me by luck when I found out that my CSIR grant application was never processed.
This meant that I would have to pay for my education. Given the expenditure on my treatment, this was unaffordable for me. This was the final nail in the coffin. I was forced to drop out and could not go back to completing my PhD.
What I faced was not technically illegal. I was discouraged from doing my PhD, but it was still a form of stigma. The external stigma I faced led to depression and isolation.
Eventually, I realised I had to fight. The treatment for TB is difficult, requiring strict compliance and the management of side effects, and these demands resolve. I began motivating myself. I began following a proper diet and completing my treatment to ensure I could recover. I also turned to books as they transported me to other worlds and helped with my isolation. I also focused on reviving my old relationships.
Gradually, things improved. I could not proceed on my desired career path, but I am an educator now. I constantly realise that I have a role to play in shaping young minds.
Workplace stigma has tangible consequences. It affects an individual’s career, financial opportunities and their right to work with dignity. So what can we do to address this stigma?
First, we need to sensitise people by educating them about TB, and the impact stigma has on patients.
Another measure is group counselling involving the patient, the employer and the immediate supervisor. Informal versions of these sessions happen in the workplace in the context of illnesses like cancer. Why should it be any different for TB?
The goal of this session would be to ensure that the patient is in a supportive environment.
Finally, at a systemic level, there needs to be a workplace policy on stigma mitigation and a mechanism where the patients can anonymously register their concerns about stigma at the workplace.
A person’s career or job is often their calling and a provider of financial security. Workplace stigma creates a hostile work environment, affecting a person’s ability to do their job and their financial security. Financial insecurity and stigma make it harder for the patient to fight TB both in terms of means and motivation. Therefore, addressing stigma in the workplace is critical to patient well-being and recovery but also to their right to work with dignity.