Even after clearing legal hurdles, the state’s much awaited emergency medical service (EMS) plan to roll out 937 advanced ambulances in Maharashtra is still a long way from becoming reality.
The 4-year-old plan was made to offer assistance to accident victims and other critical patients in the “golden hour”, the time during which prompt intervention can save a patient’s life.
A top official from the health department confirmed, “After legal hurdles, its babuism which is taking time. The first batch of ambulances might only be available after eight to nine months.”
This means that if the city faces another large-scale disaster, it will be extremely difficult for medical professionals to provide aid to the injured within the golden hour.
During the 26/11 terror attack, lack of emergency medical services exposed the state’s unpreparedness to handle such disasters. Although a few private ambulance services tried to do the job, their assistance was largely insufficient in the disaster which claimed 166 lives and left hundreds of others injured, including many foreign nationals.
The EMS has been functional in several states of India such as Gujarat, Rajasthan, Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Meghalaya, Assam, Tamil Nadu, Goa, Uttarakand, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Chhattisgarh for many years now.
The cost of the project, Rs900 crore, is to be shared by both the Union and state governments. As per the plan, a British company is to provide the state with 937 hi-tech ambulances. The ambulances will come in batches of 100 and launched across the state in phases. It is yet to be decided which district will get the ambulances first. The EMS plan will also require over 2,800 doctors to man the ambulances.
The venture is being undertaken in consortium with Pune-based firm Bharat Vikas Group (BVG), which won the contract after a global bidding. The All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) was appointed to set the technical specifications required for the EMS.
Andhra-based GVK Emergency, which failed to win the contract, dragged the state to the high court, alleging faulty process of tender allotment. The HC ruled in the state’s favour in May. GVK then approached the apex court which also ruled in the state’s favour.
Health minister Suresh Shetty said, “A committee of secretaries is now finalising the agreements, which will be signed in a month. We will roll out the ambulances after six months, with 100 ambulances each month. It will take nearly 15 months to cover the whole state.”