By Vicky Pathare, Pune Mirror | Updated: May 17, 2020,

(Calls to 108 were made by the patient’s family, neighbours and even local cops, all in vain

He sat there in a chair on the road for three hours and waited, while his family, neighbours and even the local cops tried their best to call an ambulance to take him to a hospital. His body gave up, but the ambulance never arrived. Finally they loaded his corpse into a tempo to be carried to Sassoon General Hospitals (SGH) to procure a death certificate.

All the people who came to the aid of Yeshudas Moti Francis, the Nana Peth resident who passed away in the wee hours of Friday are convinced that he could have been saved had the ambulance come within the golden hour. But that did not happen. Francis complained of chest pain and breathlessness at 12.30 am. The calls to 108 for the ambulance started at 1 am. By 3.30 am, Francis lost consciousness and eventually expired, while they were waiting for the ambulance to show up.

“The police and our neighbours had all gathered on the street. We were calling the ambulance helpline number by turns. But no ambulance came, taking a toll on my husband’s life.

I can only blame the ambulance service for my husband’s death. Of what use is it if it is not available in an emergency?” asked Shobha Francis, wife of the deceased.

Seconding her contention, Sudhir Dhawale, a neighbour who came to the aid of the family through the crisis, recounted, “Along with the cops, we even tried to hail two ambulances passing on the road seeking help. The patient had a heavy girth and it was not possible to ferry him in a car or auto-rickshaw. We finally took his body to SGH in a tempo.”

Faulting the ambulance service, he added, “Rather than sending the ambulance the person who received our calls kept pumping us for information, even checking if he was dead and if he was, what did he die of. How can any layman diagnose and provide such information?”

Likewise, Balkrushna Kadam, police inspector at Samarth police station, faulted 108. “The neighbours and even the beat marshals on duty kept calling the ambulance service in vain. The calls were made between 1am and 3.30 am. Once they were told an ambulance was being sent from Kamala Nehru Hospital, subsequently they said it was coming from Bharati Hospital. But none showed up. In fact, the people along with the patient were waiting near the Power House Chowk so the ambulance would have no problem reaching them,” he pointed out.

According to Dr Ajay Tawre, medical superintendent at SGH, the deceased was brought to the casualty at 5.30am. “The patient died due to type-1respiratory failure and bilateral pneumonia. Swabs to COVID-19 testing were not taken, nor was an autopsy done,” he informed.

At the Emergency Response Centre (ERC), the manager, Dr Praveen Sadhale, refused to take onus. In an official statement, he refuted, “Control room received a call about Francis from one Sufiyan who communicated to the emergency medical service officer (EMSO — a doctor) that the patient was dead and needed a hearse to be taken to Sassoon hospital. He also informed that two people had also gone to SGH to arrange for an ambulance. But later Sufiyan cancelled the request.”

The statement further added, “A second call came from a policeman — Dhanaji Ghokhale — seeking ambulance for an unknown patient at Rasta Peth. The ambulance was dispatched and later it was realised that it was meant for the same patient. When the ambulance reached Rasta Peth, the caller was called twice but the calls did not connect. The EMSO and pilot tried to locate the patient in the area. They returned when they did not find him.”

Countering this claim, Dhawale pointed out, “The patient was alive when he was brought out of the house and the calls were made to 108. If the ambulance could not find us as is claimed, why did we or the cops not get a call from the driver? None of us turned down the ambulance service. It was the driver who refused to come for the pick-up. After several calls, the driver claimed that he’d been instructed not to do the pick-up. This, after keeping us waiting for two-three hours.”

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