Trauma facilities in state pathetic

A Karnataka government-funded study conducted by the Indian Institute of Health Management and Research reveals that less than 5% of trauma pati­ents in the state reach the right hospital, that is a hospital that has the facilities to treat trauma injuries, within eight minutes, the global standard response time to take a patient with a medical emergency to a healthcare facility. The study points out that 20% of patients reach the right hospital only after eight minutes. While 10-12% do reach a medical facility within the prescribed time, the hospitals they were brought to did not have the facilities to treat them. For one reason or another, trauma patients are denied timely treatment, often resulting in death. India has reason for grave concern. According to latest data released by the National Crime Records Bureau, in 2015, there were 4,96,762 traffic accidents nationwide in which 1,77,423 people lost their lives; 10,857 of these fatalities occurred in 44,011 accidents in Karnataka. Many of these fatalities were avoidable. Had the accident victim been moved swiftly to a hospital and to the right hospital, many could have survived.

Trauma care specialists underscore the importance of bringing patients to the right place within the right period of time to provide them the required medical services. In rural India, the problem is mainly one of availability of the means of transporting a person swiftly to hospital. Shortage of ambulances often forces people to carry their injured or the seriously ill family members on carts, two-wheelers, even their own shoulders to avail treatment. In urban India, the availability of ambulances has improved somewhat but traffic jams prevent trauma victims being moved swiftly to hospitals. Importantly, the number of hospitals that provide trauma care is small, which means that patients have to be moved long distances to access the right treatment. It is only in recent years that India is waking up to the importance of emergency medical care; it was not recognised as a distinct area of specialisation till recently. Consequently, often it is interns and junior doctors who treat those with trauma injuries.

Clearly, India needs to prioritise trauma care services. It is not just road accidents that cause trauma injuries to the head and chest; bomb blasts too, which India suffers in large numbers annually, require trauma care services. Consequently, government-run hospitals as well as private healthcare facilities need to improve the availability, accessibility and affordability of such services. In addition, transport of patients must be speeded up. This will require more and better equipped ambulances, better management of traffic, and improved public awareness of information regarding where trauma treatment is available. We need more trained first responders.

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