Ambulance service reduces number of infant deaths

Arogya Kavacha (108 ambulance) mainly used for pregnancy emergencies

Twelve thousand five hundred babies were born in ‘Arogya Kavacha ‘108’ ambulances across the State since 2008, it has been revealed.

The ambulance service, run by the Emergency and Research Institute (EMRI) and the State Government, has contributed significantly towards reducing maternity and infant mortality rates. 

At a function to honour EMRI personnel early this week, project director of Reproductive Child Health, Dr V Raju, said that the maternity mortality rate currently stands at 173 deaths for every one lakh deliveries per year.

Before the launch of service, the figure was 200 for every one lakh. Similarly, the infant mortality rate is currently 38 deaths for every one lakh -- down from 43 before the year 2008. Raju explained that ambulances were crucial in reducing these numbers.

“The ambulance service has influenced the institutional delivery system in the State, which has also brought down cases of negligence during child birth,” he said. “We wish to bring the infant mortality rate down from 38 to 30 in the coming years.”

From November 1, 2008 to May 31, 2012, ‘Arogya Kavacha 108’ ambulances supported 7,39,715 pregnancy and child-birth cases -- constituting nearly 40 per cent of all emergency cases received, according to EMRI-published statistics. On many occasions, trained ambulance staff have found themselves tackling difficult situations.

Maheshwar, an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) from Dharwad recalled how he spent the eight longest minutes of his life, delivering a baby whose limbs were out but whose head was still inside the womb.

“With great difficulty, we reached Moraba, 32 km from Dharwad and conducted the delivery in the ambulance. Even after delivery, the baby did not react for several minutes. However, both mother and child were stablised after reaching the hospital,” Maheshwar said. 

According to B N Sridhar, the regional chief operating officer at EMRI, lack of awareness about child birth and road accessibility make pregnancy and child-birth issues responsible for nearly 40 percent of all emergency cases in Karnataka who have used ambulances from ‘Arogya Kavacha 108.’“A majority of our patients seeking ambulance aid during child-birth are from North Karnataka.

They are mostly poverty-line families who call for help after labour pains begin,’ Sridhar said. “ Since most of cases are located in places which are the least accessible, catering to such requests is a major challenge.”

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