A group of five mainly Jewish volunteers has teamed up with a private taxi company in Stamford Hill to take suspected coronavirus patients to hospital – thanks to a crowdfunding campaign.
The group, led by Dr Sharon Raymond, from Hendon, partnered with the taxi company Simcha Cars a week ago to launch the new nonprofit service using donations from the Just Giving fundraiser Covid Crisis Rescue.
Since the project began, approximately 100 vehicles have been fitted with dividing screens and kitted out with personal protective equipment, thanks to the fundraiser, which also covers the fares of passengers unable to pay for their journey.
To reduce the risk of the virus spreading, passengers using the service and their drivers wear gloves and a mask during journeys and payments are taken over the phone or invoiced.
Dr Raymond, a GP and lead in unscheduled care, said she identified “a need for a covid car service with adequate protection so that people can be safely taken to hospital or a Covid-19 hot hubs or their GP surgery in order to limit the spread of the virus.”
She said: “I put together what we call a standard operating procedure to guide the car service in what protective gear they should have and what procedure they should follow to put it on and take it off and what protective gear passengers should be wearing. This was with the advice of Dr Fiona Sim, a public health consultant.
“I also promoted this service among the hospitals, the care homes, NHS 111 and all my colleagues are very very keen to have access to this kind of service.”
Ahron Reiss, head of Simcha Cars, said the company has been receiving 200 additional calls a day since the covid-19 taxi service was rolled out.
“Every single major company has been affected badly. Our company mainly caters to the Jewish community so we weren’t affected as badly as others. However, we were affected because there are no airports and there is no where to go,” he said about the economic impact of the pandemic.
Reiss thanked Dr Raymond for her support. “We’ve received calls from all over London. This initiative which Dr Raymond is running is incredible and amazing, and I have seen all her hard work and effort really helping during this covid-19,” he said.
“We’re talking about someone who has a really good heart and always wants to help. We need more people like her around,” he added.
Safraz Adam, fleet manager at Simcha Cars, said the initiative had “put confidence back in our business and smiles on many people’s faces during this testing and difficult time.”
“We would not have been able to continue our car service if Dr Raymond hadn’t approached us to set this project up, with guidance on limiting the spread of virus, which we are adhering to, and Covid Crisis Rescue co- chaired by Dr Raymond and Alex Adams hadn’t stepped in to provide its continued support,” he added.
The Covid Crisis Rescue fundraiser, which has raised close to £97,500, has also paid for thousands of items of protective gear to be delivered to medical practitioners and centres across London, including Hatzola, the ambulance service catering to mainly Jewish communities.