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Day in the life of an ambulance crew

DNA spends a day with staffers to understand the struggles they face while taking patients to hosp

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Day in the life of an ambulance crew
(Left) Kumar and Singh prepare to take a patient to the hospital. Staff quarters in shambles.
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A normal day for an ambulance staff member at the Centralised Accident and Trauma Services (CATS) ambulance office in the Acharya Shree Bhikshu Hospital in Moti Nagar area starts at 8 am. This is when he logs into his company 'tablet' and tells them that he is ready to take calls now. He then gets set for a 12-hour shift which requires him to be on his toes at all times as the calls rarely stop.

To get an idea of the trials and pressures that paramedic staff face, DNA took a trip with two paramedics of an ambulance — Anil Singh, 30, a pilot for the BVG contracted CATS, and Hari Kumar, 24 (names changed). As a team, the duo have been transferring patients across the city for the last two years.

At 9 am, they receive their first call to take a patient suffering from respiratory disorder from Maharaja Agrasen Hospital to Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital.

"It is difficult to transfer patients from one hospital to another, especially if it is a referral from a government hospital to a 'higher centre' (better-equipped hospital). In most cases, the medical staff (at the first hospital) just hands us a slip/referral letter and send us away, the higher centres — who almost never have beds free — refuse.

This leads to chaos and there have been times when we end up moving around the city taking the patient from one hospital to another as the attendants do not get off the ambulance until they find a place," says Singh.

Other concern para-medical staff voice are the long delays in getting patients to the hospital. As DNA found out, most cars on the road, did not move for the ambulance despite constant ringing of the siren. This ensured that the journey made from Maharaja Agrasen Hospital to Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, which should have taken 15 minutes, took 40 minutes.

Forty minutes later, the team reached RML carrying the patient Shanta Devi, 55, to the Emergency block. It was here that the para-medical staff should have closed the trip on their tablets, but the team was made to wait for the attendant until they found a stretcher and the patient was carried inside for care. This took another half an hour.

The problems of a paramedic do not end even when a patient passes away. "There is the question of the body. If a patient dies during transfer, we almost never know where to take the body. Hospitals do not take responsibility," Kumar adds.

Equipment issues

Many ambulances lack basic equipment required to help patients.
Advanced Life Support fully equipped ambulances with ventilators are sometimes not available to patients
Other ambulances lack masks, swine flu kits and often face fuel issues too.

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