VVIP movement, jams biggest roadblocks for Delhi ambulances

By Prathiba Raju, IANS
Wednesday, December 22, 2010

NEW DELHI - Their sirens scream, but with little effect. Many of the capital’s ambulance services that operate around 2,000 vehicles blame low awareness, traffic jams and VVIP movements for failing to reach their destinations in time.

Harried ambulance service providers stress that traffic restrictions to facilitate movement of top leaders and visiting dignitaries should not be applicable to ambulances.

Ashwini Kapoor, director, Delhi Ambulance Service, said: “Due to increased VIP movements, there are often traffic restrictions. It becomes difficult for us to reach on time.

“In the midst of the agony of family members accompanying the sick and time running out due to traffic blocks, it is a marathon task for us. Many a time traffic police are found to be helpless.”

He also said traffic on the road was not mature enough to make way for ambulances, so those driving these vehicles have the marathon task of juggling crowded streets and taking alternative routes.

Around 2,000 ambulances ply in the capital, of which many are associated with private hospitals.

Fiftyone ambulances are run by the Delhi government in the name of Central Accidental Trauma Services (CATS). They receive 150 calls a day, higher than the private services which get 10 to 20 calls.

A CATS staffer told IANS on condition of anonymity: “It is increasingly difficult to ply ambulance in Delhi. In a day, out of five cases, at least in one the process turns crticial due to traffic blocks and restrictions.”

He also said that recently CATS acquired ambulances that are slightly bigger. Due to that, reaching the narrow lanes had become difficult.

This comes after Anil Jain, a 46-year-old resident of Shahdara who suffered a heart attack, died on the way to hospital when the ambulance carrying him was caught in traffic restrictions imposed for the prime minister’s convoy near Rajghat Sunday night.

Jain’s son Deepak moaned that his father died because he missed timely medication as they were stranded in a traffic jam for half hour (7.45 p.m. to 8.15 p.m.).

This was the third such case involving the prime minister’s convoy.

When IANS asked ambulance services where they encountered frequent traffic blocks, they named the Badarpur border, Kashmere Gate Inter State Bus Terminus (ISBT), the Moolchand flyover, the road going towards the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) and the BRT Corridor.

Manju Dutt, who has run Ashoka Ambulance Services for 10 years, said: “Every second day there is a traffic block in the city. Be it due to the Commonwealth Games, the visit of (US President) Barack Obama or (Prime Minister) Manmohan Singh, we are at the receiving end.”

Ambulance service providers suggest some solutions — such as signboards like “Leave ambulance track for ambulance” on prominent roads. Traffic police should impose fines or take immediate action for obstructing ambulance movement.

Prasanna Bhat, medical practitioner in Max Balaji Hospital, said many ambulance services never have a doctor or nurse. But their presence along with life saving drugs should be made mandatory in all the ambulances.

He also said ambulance drivers should be familiar with city roads and traffic restrictions, and should take the patient to the nearest alternate hospital.

Rajkumar Gaur from Delhi helpline ambulance service admitted: “If doctors accompany the ambulance, it would be much more easy to meet medical emergencies. But mostly, two paramedics with comparatively less experience are sent in ambulances.”

In a city teeming with vehicles, last estimated at over six million, most roads often present a picture of indisciplined traffic. Amblulances and those on emergency missions are the worst victims.

When IANS contacted a senior traffic police offcer, he said: “We usually don’t restrict any ambulances or fire engines. These incidents happen once in while.”

Filed under: Accidents and Disasters

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