Doctors said it is impossible to keep updating COVID resources that are available on social media, hence COVID patients should not just rely on social media only to get help.
24th May 2021
Debasmita Bhattacharjee was surfing Twitter to help her friend find available ICU beds for COVID patients. She came across multiple contact numbers that said they had beds available. “I was pretty frantic, my friend badly needed an ICU bed. So I started calling all these numbers that people put up on social media,” Debasmita said. However, even after calling 12 numbers, none of them picked up. “Either the numbers were busy or unavailable. Some of the numbers were just wrong numbers,” she said.
COVID patients find contact numbers on social media regarding the availability of COVID resources to be unhelpful. Social media users put up contact numbers that you can call to locate ICU beds, oxygen cylinders or medicines. However, most of these numbers are unavailable, busy or the resources no longer exist. Due to this, people like Debasmita waste critical time in getting treatment. Debasmita had to eventually give up her search on social media and had to use her contacts to get a bed. “By the time I got to bed, my friend was quite critical, I wish I hadn’t wasted that time searching for a bed on social media,” she said.
Paulami Sengupta, a social media user, who shares these contact numbers said she doesn’t always check the numbers before putting them up. “I cannot check all the numbers I get, so I believe it is for a noble cause, so I share them,” she said.
Hospitals also put up updates on ICU bed availability on their social media handles. However, when people tried to call most of the times these beds were occupied or unavailable. Doctors from the hospitals said that while the information they put up is initially correct, the beds and other resources get booked out in seconds. But, the hospitals fail to update that. Dr Manish Jangra, a doctor in Fortis Hospital, Mumbai said that they cannot attend so many calls. “We get 100 calls each day, so, many people will find their line busy, and the bed might get occupied,” he said. He added that the main concern for the doctors right now is saving lives, so they cannot dedicate one whole team to updating information on social media.
Torsha Sarkar, a researcher at The Centre for Internet and Society, said that the problem occurs because people share numbers without checking. “While the people are sharing it to help, many of these numbers can be fake and it is important to check them,” she said. She said that these unverified numbers are dangerous and counterproductive for those who are only relying on these numbers. “It is just counterproductive if you do not verify the numbers. People can check the network from which the numbers are received,” Torsha said.
Torsha added that people can also try calling these numbers before sharing, as wrong numbers can add further stress to patients and their relatives.