March 30, 2020

New website connects volunteers who can help healthcare providers during pandemic

After seeing a need to support healthcare providers during the public health emergency, University of New Mexico medical student David Gangwish created a grassroots organization to help providers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gangwish created Corona Care NM, which connects volunteers with healthcare providers. The volunteers help with childcare, pet sitting or household chores such as cleaning, cooking and grocery shopping while providers are working in hospitals during the pandemic.

Gangwish, who will soon head for a residency in urology, said he got the idea because medical professionals were talking within the field about the problem of managing child care if the public schools closed. The Public Education Department moved to distance learning for the rest of spring semester last week.

So Gangwish and a group of medical students created Corona Care NM last week. He said that within one week’s time, more than 100 volunteers have offered help and nearly 25 providers have signed up for the help.

Currently, medical students are not allowed in the hospital because of a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE), Gangwish said. The lack of PPE is a problem for hospitals around the nation. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said during a press conference that the state received 25 percent of the PPE the state requested from national stockpiles and that some of the PPE that arrived had expired.

Related: State announces new public health orders to protect PPE supply

Hospitals are reserving PPE for medical providers, Gangwish said.

“This is a way we could help,” Gangwish said.

But anyone can volunteer. The website Gangwish and his fellow medical students created allows a potential volunteer to put in their zip code and a provider can put in their zip code and the website matches the provider and the volunteer. The provider has to do their own background check on the volunteer.

So far, the service has begun in Albuquerque, but Gangwish hopes it will expand to other parts of New Mexico.

To help with childcare, Corona Care NM is looking for three-to-five volunteers per provider household so the volunteers can take shifts with the children. But for the other needs, one volunteer would be paired with one provider to pet sit or to take care of household chores while the provider is working.

Related: Early childcare centers to stay open amid stay-at-home order

Gangwish acknowledges that volunteering for a healthcare provider could increase the risk of contracting the disease. He advised that volunteers wash their hands and follow all Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for protecting oneself during the pandemic. But, he’s hoping there people are willing to help those on the front lines during the public health emergency.

“I hope people will be willing to step up in this kind of need,” he said.