How volunteer drivers transport healthcare workers in Metro Manila amid pandemic

Jervis Manahan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 22 2020 04:05 AM

A group of volunteer drivers and coordinators has formed #RockEdCarpool, an online community aimed to safely transport healthcare workers to and from their hospitals and homes amid the lockdown caused by coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

With more than 60 volunteer drivers and over 20 coordinators, #RockEdCarpool has moved more than 1,500 healthcare workers in various hospitals in Metro Manila.

"The idea was from Gang Badoy Capati. She just posted that with the stoppage of public transport services, we need to find a way to transport health care workers to and from work," said Edwin Soriano, one of the founders.

In their Facebook group, frontline medical workers needing transportation can post requests for rides. A team of volunteer coordinators then sets carpooling trips to safely bring the healthcare workers to work or home.

"Our volunteer drivers undergo a qualifying process and safety briefing we developed based on consultation from our core team doctor and peers in the medical industry," said JP Loh, co-founder of #RockEdCarpool.

They also makes sure their service doesn't spread the coronavirus, especially because they transport doctors and nurses who are exposed to patients.

"We're working on providing PPE and other materials to protect drivers and reduce cross infection among healthcare workers. This is what we're doing to address the real possibilities of spreading the virus," Loh added. 

Loh said #RockEdCarpool complements other government and private sector initiatives in providing safe transportation to frontliners.

The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, Office of the Vice President, and Department of Transportation also have buses for transporting frontline workers, but these services usually travel on certain routes and schedules.

#RockEdCarpool's services are mainly responsive to demands from frontliners in the same online group.

"We're continuously working on improving our service. Tie ups with other volunteer groups and other initiatives are about to materialize as many of us aim for the common goal of moving healthcare workers safely." Loh said.

The founders said there are major challenges in running the carpool community.

Due to checkpoint restrictions and limited number of drivers, some requests for rides have not been granted. But the group is trying its best to provide rides for every healthcare worker who would need it.

One time, Loh shared he encountered a frontliner needing a ride from Quezon City to Research Institute for Tropical Medicine in Alabang, but because of certain limitations, they weren't able to give him a trip twice.

"The third time he requested for a ride, I made it my personal mission to get him to RITM. We found a ride for him to take from Manila to Bicutan which was shared with a midwife and a doctor. It really touched my heart when at nearly the last hour, 2 drivers became available to fill in the gaps in the journey and make it a complete trip from QC to RITM in Alabang." he said.

Some frontliners who live in Rizal, Bulacan, Laguna, and Cavite have also availed the service.

Right now, the initiative is servicing over 19 hospitals around Metro Manila.