In a city where accessibility to affordable healthcare for the poor is a big challenge, the State-run 108 Arogya Kavacha emergency response service is doing its best to reach the needy to hospitals within minutes of receiving a call. But the onus is on the people to dial 108 as soon as they sense an emergency.

Although someone called 108 when Purnima gave birth in a Kamalanagar park before bleeding to death, the call was made an hour late by which time the precious golden hour was lost.

Not many Bangaloreans know that anyone (irrespective of social status) can use this free, first-come first-served service for all kinds of medical emergencies and not just for road traffic accidents and trauma care.

A range of situations

D.V. Badrinath, GVK EMRI's Chief Operating Officer, said that it can be summoned for cardiac problems, respiratory problems, diabetes, pregnancy-related emergencies, stroke/convulsions, suicide attempts, poisoning cases, assault/violence, animal attacks, neonatal emergencies, building collapse, fire, burns and hazardous material ingestion.

Apart from this, individuals can call 108 for police-related cases such as accidents, assault, violence, robbery in progress, gambling, property offences, self-inflicted injuries and threat cases.

Started in Karnataka in November 2008 by the State Health and Family Welfare Department in collaboration with GVK EMRI, the emergency response service caters to all medical, police and fire emergencies, Mr. Badrinath said.

Pre-hospital care

“We also provide pre-hospital care within the ambulance en route to the nearest hospital or to a hospital of the patient's choice. With a fleet of 517 ambulances, including 58 which run in Bangalore, we operate round-the-clock all 365 days,” he said.

Ever since its inception, the service has attended to 1,38,049 calls related to various emergencies in Bangalore as of last weekend. These include 22,107 pregnancy-related calls, 21,67 vehicular accidents and trauma calls, 14,067 gastrointestinal complaints, 13,075 cardiac/cardiovascular complaints, 11,850 calls related to respiratory complaints, 8,366 calls related to non-vehicular accident and trauma and thousands of other calls related to accidental poisoning, fevers and infections, diabetes and burns.

Trained personnel

The ambulances are manned by an emergency medicine trained person (EMT) and first responder-trained driver (pilot). This service is available in all the 30 districts of the State.

Stationed strategically at various locations to reach the destination within the shortest possible time, the service operates through a centralised Emergency Response Centre (ERC) in Bangalore which houses a call centre.

Technology

On reaching the scene, the EMTs are further assisted by on-call Emergency Physicians from the ERC with expert advice in the form of online medical direction. “We have the telemedicine technology wherein an ECG can be taken and transmitted from the ambulance to our ERC en route to hospital for interpretation and guidance on appropriate pre-hospital care to the patients with cardiac illnesses,” he said.

The service has attended to more than 16 lakh emergencies and saved 52,933 lives and also delivered 12,065 babies onboard, Mr. Badrinath added.