Have you stabilised the patient?” says a doctor into a telephone receiver. A room nearby holds more staff amid a pattern of cubicles and computer screens, talking rapidly into their headsets and furiously entering data at a call centre tucked away in Basaveshwaranagar, not far from Havanur Circle. The narrow path that leads there is one of mud and stones, but should you choose to take it, you will find yourself at the nerve centre of Karnataka’s 108 ambulance service, where prompt assistance and timely instructions can save lives.

The GVK Emergency Medicine and Research Institute’s call centre manages the round-the-clock integrated ambulance service for medical, police and fire emergencies, receiving around 18,000 phone calls a day from all over the State.

Only about 6,000 of the calls received in a day are genuine, and about 3,000 of them pertain to emergencies, says S.S. Perveez, marketing head at GVK EMRI.

The rest are calls from children, pranksters and curious individuals who want to know more about the service.

Around 120 call centre employees fluent in Kannada, English and Hindi work in three shifts, manning 60 telephone lines. Speed and efficiency is crucial, and while the staff are not trained to provide medical advice to those seeking to administer first aid in emergencies, calls are transferred if necessary to a doctor who can provide the information required as well as instruct paramedics once they arrive on the scene.

You can be sure that if you should ever need to dial 108, you will hear a reassuring voice at the end of the line, saying, “Namaskara, 108, yenadru emergency idiya?”

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