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Death on 4-wheels: How unsafe ambulances are crippling India’s healthcare

Government-run transportation of patients is either completely dysfunctional or teetering on the edge of collapse in most parts of the country, an India Today investigation showed.

 by Mriganka Sen

Picture for representation

BRIEFCASE

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    Government-run transportation of patients is completely dysfunctional.
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    Ambulances operated by govt hospitals were found compromising patient safety
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    India Today’s investigation found out that ambulances were least available

Government-run transportation of patients is either completely dysfunctional or teetering on the edge of collapse in most parts of the country, an India Today investigation showed.

In what has largely been an under-reported side of the nation’s creaky healthcare system, many ambulances operated by government hospitals across the nation were found to be compromising patient safety because of dilapidated, unhygienic vehicles and poor response times.

India Today’s reality-check of patient transportation followed the heart-wrenching story of a tribal man in Odisha trekking ten kilometres with his wife’s body wrapped in a sheet on his shoulder. His 12-year-old daughter walked beside, crying.

INDIA TODAY REALITY CHECK

In Uttar Pradesh last week, a father was seen running to a hospital in Kanpur, carrying his son. The boy’s arm dangled limply as the man walked into the healthcare centre that declared the patient dead on arrival.

India Today’s investigation found out that ambulances were least available to the country’s under-served poor.

At Akola in Maharashtra, the crew filmed a hospital van transporting medical supplies to Amravati- instead of patients. In Pune, the service was also found to be in a shambles.

Forget trained paramedics, the city’s ambulance service had no basic life-saving devices in its vehicles.

Most of the vans were broken, with worn-out stretchers. India Today’s team also saw an ambulance ferrying schoolchildren in the city.

“Three out of five ambulances are not in a working condition. The other two have no equipment or even oxygen tanks,” said an emergency-vehicle operator.

He also complained about wage delays. The condition of government ambulances was found to be equally pathetic in northern India.

In Chandauli in Uttar Pradesh, vehicles running under the national ambulance service, were in a state of disrepair. Parked outside a healthcare facility, an ambulance had its fan and air-conditioning damaged.

It’s light and siren had also been pulled out from the van’s roof, India Today observed. The ambulance driver said he had to open the vehicle’s windows for ventilation while transporting

patients.

Outside a government hospital at Muzaffarpur in Bihar, a young patient with an injured foot drags himself out while ambulances stayed idle alongside.

Their driver revealed the vehicles ran out of fuel several days ago. “There’s no fuel. We have ordered it. But there’s no response,” he claimed.

The story was no different at Burdwan in West Bengal where government ambulances were either locked behind iron gates or parked in shanty locations. Impoverished patients had no options but to hire expensive private ambulances, India Today observed.

DILAPIDATED DELHI

In the national capital, the seat of Indian power, private vans labelled as ambulances queued outside government hospitals.

But they hardly had any primary healthcare equipment on board let alone emergency apparatus, India Today noticed.

The condition of the Delhi government’s fleet was no better.

Several paramedics India Today spoke with admitted their ambulances had inadequate first-aid and oxygen supplies

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Comment (1)

  1. K SHESHU BABU

    If the condition of ambulances in Delhi is so pathetic, one can imagine the condition in rural areas. The governments spend very little on infrastructure of medical equipment including maintenance of ambulances, first aid, quick service by making the ambulances in good condition for emergency use, etc.

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