Nestled in the greens surrounding Vijay Ghat and set slightly behind the now-closed Bela Road electric crematorium on Ring Road is a small office block, which announces its presence through a tower installed above it. This is the hub and nerve centre of the Centralised Accident and Trauma Services which is now providing the main ambulance service for the whole of Delhi. And within this headquarter building there is much to show that the Central Control Room located here would play an even bigger role in the days to come to provide Delhiites a reliable, efficient and fast ambulance service.

“All the calls made by people on 102, which can be accessed through mobile phones too, and 1099 come to us here,” said Dr. P. Raju, in-charge of the Central Control Room. For taking the calls, he said five call takers are on duty round the clock and the number would by the end of the month go up to 10.

Sitting before computers, which reflect the number of the caller, the call takers take down the details and forward them to the four despatchers – each catering to one zone. “The despatchers, who sit before computers that display the position of the 101 CATS ambulances in the city through a global positioning system (GPS) software, are well-versed with the routes of their respective zones and inform the ambulance drivers about the location and follow up on their movement.”

“If we encounter a problem on the way, such as a traffic jam, water-logging or a protest rally, we either ask the Traffic Police to clear the way for our vehicles or despatch another of our ambulance to the spot,” said Shift In-Charge S.D. Khan.

Very soon, Dr. Raju said huge panels would be installed in the despatch room to enable a better view of the position of the ambulances to the operators. “We are also preparing for a major increase in the number of ambulances,” he said.

Having taken over the reins of the centre around the time 70 new air-conditioned Maruti Eeco ambulances were brought in last August, by when only 31 ambulances were in service with CATS, Dr. Raju said a major expansion programme is on the cards. “We are going to get 50 more ambulances in a month’s time and then another 100 are planned for induction by the end of the fiscal. That would take the number of ambulances up to nearly 250.”

Incidentally, CATS was conceptualised as plan scheme way back in 1984 during the 6th Five Year Plan and was to be implemented under the aegis of All India Institute of Medical Science. In 1988, the ambulance service was transferred to the Delhi Fire Service (DFS) and thereafter it changed hands several times. For a population of nearly 1.7 crore, its presence is still minuscule: at about just one vehicle for every 1.7 lakh people. But with a renewed focus on emergency response and care, things have started looking up.

With a driver and a paramedic being required for each ambulance, Dr. Raju said the recruitment process has also been initiated to ensure that all the 50 new ambulances do not stay idle even for a day. “We had 195 drivers and paramedics before August 2012 and then 198 drivers and 207 paramedics were added. Now we are in the process of recruiting 177 more drivers and 220 more paramedics. That would take the total staff strength to nearly 1,000.”

All the new recruits, he said, have to undergo a three-week training programme which trains them in handling patients.

Dr. Raju said since the needs of different patients are different, the staff is also being made aware about the specialities available in hospitals in their areas. “If a patient has suffered a heart attack and you take him to a dispensary, you will only lose out on the golden period. Similarly a sick child, should be necessarily taken to a hospital with paediatric facilities. So the drivers and paramedics are being told about the facilities available in both private and government hospitals.”

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