Mobike ambulances yet to start

Dikshit fails to implement promise made in 2008 election manifesto

Delhi’s health department might be adding more ambulances to its fleet, but chief minister Sheila Dikshit’s 2008 poll promise of motorcycle ambulances manoeuvering through traffic snarls to reach patients in congested areas appears to be going nowhere.

The Congress party, in its 2008 assembly election manifesto, had promised 20 motorcycle-based ambulances and a total of 150 general ambulances for providing emergency transport to accident victims and other patients.

While 50 new regular ambulances are set to be formally inducted — taking their total to 150 — officials in the health department appear unaware of the government’s promise of mobike ambulances.

Even Delhi health minister Ashok Kumar Walia did not have the faintest idea of the government’s intention to launch these unique first response vehicles. He, however, talked about a substitute in the form of Eeco ambulances, built on Eeco vans.

“The main aim of the motorcycle-based ambulances was to cater to patients in the congested areas of the city. The Eeco ambulances that we are inducting are small in size and should serve the purpose. They are built to negotiate the narrow lanes of unauthorised colonies in the city and the villages nearby,” said Walia.

However, the smaller ambulances that the health minister referred to are not designed to negotiate the ever-increasing traffic in the city.

Officials in the department, after first appearing ignorant about the plan, say these ambulances are in the pipeline. Sarita, an official with the Centralised Accident & Trauma Services (CATS), blamed the failure to induct these ambulances on lack of funds and cancellation of a public-private partnership in this regard.

“The proposal is included in this year’s health budget and we are expecting it to be passed soon. Last time, lack of funds hampered its procurement. As of now, we are substituting the services of motorcycle ambulances with Eeco ambulances,” she said.  
If actually pressed into service, these ambulances would be the first in the country to be procured by any government. Earlier, in 2005, Apollo Indraprastha Hospital had launched motorcycle ambulances, but soon had to abandon the service.

“Unlike smaller hospitals which take care of primary care patients, Apollo is a bigger hospital and takes care of tertiary and critical care patients. The kind of patients we cater to cannot be carried on a bike and because of this, we did not receive many calls which required motorcycle ambulances,” said Srishtee Sahni of Apollo Hospital.

The concept of medical help on two wheelers is new to India, but it is common in developed countries.

Concept a success

Even in a developing country like Guinea, the motorcycle ambulance service has been appreciated by UNICEF for its promptness and quick service.

In India, only a couple of months ago, the Maharashtra government launched ‘Blood on Call’ on two wheelers to ensure speedy supply of blood to the needy in rural areas.

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