The first ever recorded ambulance service in India was provided by St. John’s Ambulance Association in 1914. Almost 100 years later, as the World Ambulance Day is being celebrated on Tuesday, the concept of transporting those in need of emergency care has undergone a quantum change in the country.

While public awareness on making way for ambulances has undergone a paradigm change for the better, issues continue to fester in areas such as administering critical first aid and CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) during the ‘golden hour’ and evacuating the critically injured.

According to H. Mohan, regional manager (Western Region) of GVK EMRI-108 Ambulance Services, the basic first responder training must be taught at schools, as was being done in many Western countries.

In accidents, a lot of lives could be saved if the general public had knowledge on how to arrest bleeding, spot spinal fractures that require complete immobilisation of the victim and that the seriously injured must be kept conscious by talking so as to keep the brain active.

“All 108 ambulances have a driver, trained in CPR and basic first, and an emergency medical technician (EMT) who had undergone specialised training to handle even pregnancies and cardiovascular emergencies. But before they arrive, if someone with first responder training was already at the scene, it would be of invaluable help.”

G. Bakthavachalam, chairman of KG Hospital, said that emergency medical transportation and pre-hospital care was a major issue for India, where 1.4 lakh lives were lost in road accidents every year and over 350 people died in every city because of lack of medical care during the ‘golden hour.’

While Coimbatore region had a high level of awareness, he said that there was a need for more trained good Samaritans who can keep the accident victim alive till the ambulance reached or safely transport the injured to hospitals.

On the standards of ambulances, he said that his hospital had deployed two state-of-the-art ambulances which act as mobile ICUs and were equipped with advanced medical equipment. In fact, all ambulances in the city coordinated with the police control room to reach accident spots quickly, added Dr. Bakthavachalam.

A senior traffic police official said that they ensured there was no inordinate delay in movement of emergency vehicles.

The personnel manning the automatic signals had been instructed to use the ‘manual override’ option to make way for ambulances. Further, the cooperation from the public in this regard was very high.