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Northern Light Health doctor sparks idea to deliver of medical supplies from Maine to COVID-19-stricken India

Navneet Marwaha, M.D. has family in India and felt compelled to help. When she went to the hospital system's CEO and VP of supply chain, she got a lot of support.

BREWER, Maine — A Maine doctor is coordinating the delivery of medical supplies to India as the country struggles to care for patients sick with COVID-19.

Some of the major issues for hospitals in India are a lack of oxygen to help people breathe and a lack of beds.

When Navneet Marwaha, M.D., a doctor with Northern Light Health, she thought of her own family in India, who all had COVID-19 and recovered.

"Limitations on the oxygen supply, no beds, hospitals saying signs that say we don't have beds," said Marwaha. "How can we be living in this type of a situation?"

Marwaha reached out to Northern Light Health's president and CEO Tim Dentry to see if the hospital could help out. After confirmation with Mike Whelan, the hospital's vice president of facilities and supply chain, they were able to gather N95 masks, goggles, face shields, gloves, as well as oxygen concentrators and bag valve masks, which help people breathe.

They gathered the supplies and sent them to Partners for World Health, a nonprofit that collects medical supplies for situations exactly like what is happening in India. Marketing Director Paul Golding said because the items came directly from the hospital, it saved the staff at the non-profit time from sorting them and assembling kits.

"I was completely flabbergasted at the response," said Marwaha. "I was floored at the response by the organization."

The hospital system donated 10 oxygen concentrators and dozens of bag valve masks.

Northern Light Health said the supplies they donated were a surplus, due to good planning and procurement during the pandemic.

"We said, 'OK, we have some surplus that we can give away and donate to those in need without affecting the safety of our care teams and the safety of our people,'" said Marwaha. "We were able to be more successful because we partnered with somebody who already had those connections."

The supplies will go to Amara Hospital in Andhra Pradesh, in southeast India. The first air freight shipment should get there by mid-June.

"I just feel really proud that even though we are so far away and what we are doing may not be significant due to the amount of pandemic that India is seeing, it is going to help some people," Marwaha said. 

Partners for World Health said they are sending the emergency items by air freight in the next week or sooner, with another 22,000 pounds of supplies going by sea in the next few months. 

They are reaching out to MaineHealth and Central Maine Health Care to see if they can help, too.

RELATED: 'It is the most helpless feeling in the world' | Triad ICU doctor shares story of parents' battle with COVID-19 in India