Critical Care ambulances remain elusive in accident prone Kashmir

As the state is witnessing an increase in the number of accidents, violent incidents and medical emergencies, the absence of Critical Care Ambulances is proving fatal for victims. The state has failed to provide these Life Support System fitted ambulances at the hospitals, despite promises.

Critical Care ambulances remain elusive in accident prone KashmirThe government on Wednesday flagged off 70 ambulances procured through the funds of National Health Mission ( NHM). However, none of these vehicles have been fitted with the equipment for life support systems rendering these ambulances no better than regular transport vehicles.

Even of the 131 ambulances procured earlier through National Ambulance Service of National Health Mission, none is fitted with a life support system. “ These vehicles ( the ones flagged off) are just white colored vans with a siren. Patient travelling in these vehicles to hospitals has no advantage over a patient travelling in a normal vehicle,” said a doctor.

On the flagging off ceremony, Minister of Health and Medical Education, Choudhary Lal Singh promised to ‘ float tenders’ for procuring Critical Care Ambulances for the state.

Earlier this year, Minister of State for Health, Asiya Naqash had also announced procuring 25 Critical Care Ambulances for all districts of J& K on a fast track basis. “ We have allocated Rs. 5 crores for the purpose, and there would be no complicated and cumbersome process but a simple procedure as is the practice in PGI Chandigarh,” she had told . While talking to us , she said that the government was ‘ on it’ ( the procurement of ambulances) but admitted that the process had not started yet. “ Give us some time, it has just been some months only,” she said.

However, the state continues to have only two critical care ambulances, one in the CMs cavalcade and one for the governor of the state. The tertiary care hospitals are also without this service, although before September 2014 floods, the GMC did have two Critical Care Ambulances. “ We will soon make these flood damaged ambulances functional with the Critical Care equipment fitted in,” said Dr. Rafiq Ahmed Pampori, Principal GMC Srinagar.

Lack of the specialised vehicles fitted with life support systems is responsible for patients losing on ‘ the golden hour’, the time that doctors say could mean the difference between life and death, in transportation to a healthcare facility.

Doctors at SMHS Hospital said that it is common for them to receive patients in morbid conditions because they had taken a long time to reach the hospital without any medical support.

A doctor wishing anonymity said that the Pulwama youth who died due to his injuries on Tuesday could have been saved if appropriate medical care and life support could have been provided to him on time.

“ It is very easily said that the person succumbed to injuries but in reality it can be translated into patient not getting proper medical care in time,” he said, adding that it is the critical care ambulances that can support a critically injured person in such times. Even in the last government, the then Chief Minister Omar Abdullah had promised to put 50 ambulances fitted with Basic Life Support System after every 30 kms in the state. He had also promised launched the ambulance helpline 102 and 108 which have still not taken off in the state.

According to Accidental Deaths and Suicides Report of 2013, the last that is available, 63.5 percent deaths due to unnatural causes are due to road traffic accidents in J& K, the highest in any state.

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