Monday, March 31, 2008

Please give way

Please give way
Ambulances Struggle To Get Those Needing Urgent Medical Attention To Hospitals
Ambarish B | TNN

Bangalore: Clogged roads with vehicles piled up even on pavements. And there it is, the white vehicle with a loud siren, desperately threading its way through the jam, rushing a VIP (very injured person) to the hospital during the ‘golden hour’.
But where’s the space? This SMS doing the rounds says it all — ‘We are in a city where pizza reaches faster than the ambulance!’
The city’s 760 ambulances are always in a tight spot. Spacecrunched roads teeming with vehicles, insensitive motorists and lack of a coordinating system for ambulances makes for this sorry state of affairs.
Imagine this: A victim from Yelahanka calls up a private ambulance service. Due to lack of knowledge about an ambulance available close to the victim’s place, an ambulance from a distant place is rushed to the spot. And, a traffic constable at a junction realizes an ambulance is approaching only when he hears its siren.
“Ambulances can jump red signals, go the wrong way in a one-way and so on. Because we don’t have a centralized system for movement of ambulances, our constables make way for ambulances only when ambulances arrive at the junction. It’s fellow motorists who have to voluntarily give way to ambulances. Motorists should stop immediately and ambulances will make their own way. Traffic policemen immediately turn off the signals and allow the ambulance to move first,’’ additional commissioner of police (traffic & security) Praveen Sood explained.
The question here is: Who should create a centralized system? Traffic police say they are ready to assist in building such this. “In some cities like Hyderabad, ambulances are managed by a centralized system.
The service also carries advertisements assuring the public that the ambulance will reach the spot in 7 minutes. If the patient is poor, treatment for the first 24 hours will be provided free of cost.
Such a system can be introduced in Bangalore also. The services of wireless and police network will be useful, for we already have an integrated network to send Hoysalas and Cheetahs,’’ Sood suggested.
Experts feel only the health department can take the initiative to make the ambulance service an exclusive social service. The driving force behind the CTC Sanjeevini service Dr N K Venkataramana said they had introduced such a system in the city in 2001. Unfortunately, poor coordination and conforming to Western standards didn’t allow the system to work.
“If a person is injured in an accident, treatment begins from the spot once the ambulance reaches there. We introduced a ‘blue signal light’ concept, to alert the arrival of an ambulance 300 metres from the junction. But, some said it would be a breach of international signals standard.
We have to set standards which suits our conditions and road scenario. The ambulances can have a remote switch which sends a signal to the junction lights. Immediately, the signal light will turn blue and motorists and traffic police will get ready to give way for the ambulance,’’ he explained.
Clearly, the ball is in the medical health department and the state government’s court to set up a centralized integrated control room. Experts suggest this can be done more judiciously with private participation. A digital road map of Bangalore, expert staff at the control room, little changes in the signal light system and participation of all hospitals, including the private, can make it possible.
And Bangaloreans will get pizzas and ambulances within the same time!


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