By Sumiya Shah
Srinagar: It is a curious case of missing ambulances. The Jammu and Kashmir Medical Supplies and Corporation Limited (JKMSCL) is claiming that it has provided 11 critical-care ambulances to the health department but the health department is denying the claim.
Managing Director of JKMSCL, Dr Yashpal Sharma, while talking to Kashmir Reader said, “The state health department received three critical-care ambulances a month ago and now we have provided eight more ambulances, which will have their final inspection on March 8 by health experts and by the mechanical division.”
“We are receiving the ambulances in phases and each phase is a batch of three ambulances. At the end of March 2017, the health department will get all the 21 ambulances as per the tender. All the procedures have been completed and only the inspection by health experts remains,” Dr Sharma said.
The government had requisitioned from the JKMSCL 21 Critical Care Ambulances for emergencies, including road accidents. These were to be placed along the Srinagar-Jammu Highway and other accident-prone areas at every 30-km distance. The tender for procurement of these ambulances was given to JKMSCL. Though the JKMSCL is claiming to have supplied 11 ambulances, there is on the ground only one critical-care ambulance as yet, and that is not a new one.
Director Health Services Jammu Dr Gurjeet Singh told Reader, “We have not received any ambulance yet from the JKMSCL. When the whole lot of 21 ambulances will be received by the health department, it will be distributed equally in both divisions of the state.”
Director Health Services Kashmir Saleem-u-Rehman said on this issue, “We have only one critical-care ambulance in the Valley as of now. We have not received any new critical-care ambulance from the government.”
An official of the health department said that ambulances available at present in hospitals have no resuscitation facilities or trained staff. “Majority of the critically ill patients die before they reach hospital in such ambulances. Many patients reach hospitals in morbid condition as the ambulances carrying them lack equipment and qualified staff,” he said.
Critical-Care Ambulances (CCAs) are usually equipped with oxygen-breathing circuit, suction kit, spinal collars, spine board, medical kits, drugs, glucometer, wheelchair and stretcher. Trained doctors and paramedics accompany such mobile facilities and keep communicating to the hospital vital information about the patient.
At present, a pick-up van fitted with a couch is termed as an ambulance. Health department officials said that “patients carried in these so-called ambulances have no advantage over a patient travelling in a normal vehicle. These ambulances are just white vans with a siren.”
They also said that the present ambulances are not accompanied by any trained paramedic. The care of the patient is usually done by his/ her attendants.
International standards for ambulance specifications make it mandatory for ambulances to have necessary equipment for Basic, Advanced and Cardiac Life Support. An ambulance van has to be accompanied by a first responder, an ambulance care assistant, and a paramedic trained in Advanced Life Support system. The van should be air-conditioned and have crash-resistant cots, airway, ventilation, oxygen and suction equipment consisting of portable oxygen of minimum 350-litre capacity, an in-ambulance oxygen system with a minimum 1,200-litre capacity, and other emergency equipment.
“Many injured patients succumb on the way to hospital due to loss of blood,” an ambulance driver of SMHS hospital said. “The dilapidated roads and traffic jams only worsen the condition of the injured. The so-called ambulances plying on roads are actually meant for carrying dead bodies. These ill-equipped vehicles are very risky for a trauma patient. Critical-care ambulances can make much difference and save precious lives.”
He added, “Before bringing critical-care ambulances, the roads should be repaired. People have to be made aware of the importance of giving way to an ambulance. If a fully equipped ambulance gets stuck in a traffic jam, it will serve no purpose”.