The memory remains fresh in our minds. In the early weeks of 2020, our country went into lockdown as we joined the rest of the world in breaking the chain of infection of Covid-19.
While civilians hunkered down and shut their doors to the outside world, the team behind BookDoc, led by Dato’ Chevy Beh, did the opposite – they mobilised fleets of staff to government clinics and hospitals to join the war against the virus.
“Like many companies, we were uncertain with what the government had planned. The new guidelines were not out yet. Once it was, we continued working in full force because we were considered essential services,” Dato’ Chevy shares.
As Malaysia’s fully homegrown and fastest growing medical tech company, BookDoc could offer vital insights and services in helping the health ministry digitalise many important aspects.
Working with the Ministry of Health, BookDoc organised live virtual webinars for the public. Every day from 12-12.30pm, BookDoc and its network of doctors took live questions online from people who had any questions regarding Covid-19 to alleviate the heavy number of phonecalls the ministry was receiving. Spinning off from that, they launched virtual clinics on their app that enabled users to chat with medical practitioners to narrow down diagnosis before going to clinics thus saving time and crowding at government clinics and hospitals.
BookDoc also launched mobile operations where they could send their test teams to low-risk households and companies for Covid testing, once more reducing the risk of infections from crowds.
A little over a year later, the vaccines have arrived, bringing the first glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel. BookDoc was also at the forefront of that operation.
“We were appointed by the MOH to roll out vaccination for the AstraZeneca vaccine opt-in,” Dato’ Chevy shares. “We are running the biggest site which is PWTC (Putra World Trade Centre). We screen about 9,000 people a day. The rest are smaller places doing only 1,000-2,000 injections.”
Despite growing leaps and bounds from a small med-tech app helping people reach 10,000 steps a day to being one of the main vaccine coordinators for the country, Dato’ Chevy hasn’t had time to register his achievement. He is more concerned about the behemoth task at hand that won’t see the end for another few years – at least.
“It is a great experience working alongside the government to do something of this scale for the country,” he says. “Going through the work and getting your hands dirty is different from just pointing out flaws and just talking about what can be done better.
An uphill battle
Dato’ Chevy and the BookDoc team had only 48 hours to set everything up in the halls of PWTC from the time he got the phonecall from the ministry.
“It was just madness,” he recalls with a shake of his head. “I had to call everyone myself and pool the workstaff. We were calling friends and anyone and everyone we knew who would be interested to help or earn extra money. It was to help the government and the country after all.”
They had to find enough doctors for consultation, nurses for administering the injections, pharmacists to handle the vaccines and a medley of other onground staff to do observation, registration and any other administration work. These people will be screening an average of 9,000 people a day at the largest vaccination centre in Kuala Lumpur for 12 hours a day from 9am-9pm, seven days a week.
On top of that, as the only tech company on board out of five helping with the vaccination, BookDoc is also responsible for generating vital data for the entire programme. They have to report on everything from number of successful vaccinations and no-shows to the demography of the people who are screened.
“We run a very efficient but lean schedule,” Dato’ Chevy shares. “Everyone is exhausted. In total, we always have about 100 on-ground every day.”
Dato’ Chevy himself is there daily to ensure everything is running smoothly.
“I need to be there every day,” he emphasises. “If there are holdups in any part of the process, we need to quickly see how can we speed things up for the smoothest, most seamless vaccination process with each visitor.”
It sounds terribly exhausting but it’s not even the hardest part. Dato’ Chevy is honest in revealing that the vaccination is not yet rolling out in full capacity – largely due to a lack in supply of vaccines. Once more supplies come through, the real fight to reaching herd immunity begins.
“The easy part is the opt-in,” he tells. “Once we get more vaccines in and enough to go around, the battle begins to reach those don’t want to take it as well as those in the rural areas who are cut off from information and logistics.”
He estimates it will take at least 3 years to reach the target of inoculating 70% of the population for herd immunity, and that is if vaccination efforts are ramped up to five times more than the current rate.
“This will be around for some time,” he notes.
Answering to responsibility and country
Dato’ Chevy was among the first to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine when the opt-in opened up to the public, along with his entire BookDoc staff. He feels fantastic a month on and looks forward to his second dose to complete his vaccination.
“I had a slight fever on the second day, but that’s to be expected – it’s proof that the vaccine is working,” he divulges.
He won’t tell you to go get vaccinated because he believes everyone has a choice over their own bodies, but he will remind you to be responsible to your respective immediate contacts.
“Everyone deserves the right to choose to be vaccinated or not,” he says “but it’s about being responsible for you and your loved ones. Sometimes you may not care what happens to you, but what about your wife, your parents? You don’t want to be the culprit who kills someone because you infected them.
The benefits far outweigh the doubts and science has only ever brought the humanrace forward in all our generations of existence. He also asks skeptics to consider why so many parties are sacrificing and risking themselves on the daily to get this done if it were all a conspiracy hoax.
“Everyone on ground is very tired, but it’s something that has to be done. We are running on coffee and driven by our responsibility to the government and the people who come to us,” he tells. “We’ve been entrusted with this huge task. The government and the people trust us so we have to deliver. These opportunities that come our way make me very grateful but also make me continually want to do better to live up to people’s trust put in us.”
As exhausting as it all is, Dato’ Chevy cannot be prouder of his team, the people who make BookDoc.
“My team and I are all very proud to be part of this at a time when Malaysians need us. It doesn’t matter who you are, we are doing a job to help the country and its people. As Malaysian, I’m very proud. We’re changing a lot of people’s lives, an entire generation’s.”
Photos: Tommi Chu from Blink Studios
Art direction: Anson Siau