The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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In emergency, dial hospital on wheels

Medical representative Siddhartha Sarkar, knocked down while crossing VIP Road, lay bleeding and in shock for a good quarter of an hour before locals bundled him into an auto-rickshaw and ferried him to hospital. He was diagnosed with a spine injury which, doctors said, got worse by travelling in the cramped auto, and Siddhartha is still suffering the consequences. The ‘golden hour’, or the minutes following an emergency — be it a heart attack, stroke, accident or fits — is pivotal, since, the quality of care provided during this period has a direct bearing on the final outcome. Sadly, more than 80 per cent of emergency victims in the city and its suburbs don’t receive proper medical attention during this crucial phase.

Propelled by the belief that “no individual should be deprived of quality care in a life-threatening situation”, the 325-bed, multi-speciality Apollo Gleneagles Hospitals in Calcutta has put in place an advanced emergency management system that can deal with road accidents, cardiac emergencies and stroke, and even industrial accidents. “Statistics available indicate that 62 per cent of those involved in emergencies belong to the productive age group of 25 to 50 years, which is a major drain on the nation’s most important resource, trained manpower,” says Prathap C. Reddy, chairman, Apollo Hospitals Group.

The ‘Hospital on Wheels’ is part of Apollo Hospitals’ National Emergency Network, focusing on “bringing immediate care without waiting for fare”. The ambulance services, including pre-hospital resuscitation, will be available on call round the clock within city limits. “The vehicle drivers and paramedics are trained and certified as emergency technologists and can deliver appropriate treatment on the spot, making the doctors’ task easier,” Reddy adds.

The Hospitals on Wheels are fitted with portable ventilators, defibrillators, suction apparatus, oxygen, life-saving drugs, etc. The city emergency service, to be inaugurated on Wednesday, is being kicked off with three such special ambulances — two at the EM Bypass hospital and one at the group clinic at Gariahat. “We will have seven more soon,” says V. Nagarjuna Reddy, manager (marketing), of the Bypass hospital.

“Today, we have the only dedicated, toll-free four-digit helpline — 1066 — that has been allotted for emergency services across the country, which will help save precious time during the golden hour,” stresses the group chairman. Patients in Calcutta will simply have to prefix the city code (033) to the number and dial.

“The most important factor in an emergency is the amount of time lost before a patient reaches the hospital. It’s not just how quickly a patient is shifted, but the manner in which the victim is transported, which often makes a difference,” warns trauma specialist Ranjith Kuzupilly. “But 99 per cent of emergency victims in Calcutta are shifted in vehicles other than ambulances,” he laments.

The Apollo emergency management facility is based on the ‘First Respondents’ concept in the US. It involves identifying responsible citizens, equipping them to provide first-aid to accident and emergency victims in the community and help shift them to a hospital. This ensures prompt attention and minimises time lost before an ambulance reaches the spot.

“Over 10,000 students, drivers and policemen in Hyderabad, Chennai and Delhi have been trained, and we hope to replicate the model in Calcutta. We will work in close conjunction with the traffic police and para clubs, which are the nerve centres of residential settlements,” says the group chairman.

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