On August 7, Metro Rail witnessed its first accident in the city. One died and many others were injured.
More than two months later, as work on the metro picks up pace and inches towards the deadline, officials claim the sites are equipped with first-aid kits, ambulances, attendants and safety officers to handle injuries — minor to potentially fatal ones. Experts, however, are sceptical about the existing arrangements.
The sites that do not have an ambulance on standby outnumber the ones with this facility, an expert said. For instance, work is in progress at 19 underground stations and of these, only Shenoy Nagar and Nehru Park stations have an ambulance within the premises, an official of Chennai Metro Rail Ltd. (CMRL) said.
On the Gemini-Teynampet-Saidapet-Chamiers Road stretch, too, there are no ambulances. But the contractor’s site office in Nandanam, in this case, Gammon India, has a vehicle.
On the Government Estate-LIC-Thousand Lights stretch, there is an ambulance at May Day Park, where Tunnel Boring Machines (TBMs) have been employed. “CMRL mandates that a contractor in charge of a stretch should have one ambulance. There is no need to have ambulances at all sites as the vehicle can shuttle between the locations when required. Also, we have tie-ups with hospitals across the city,” the official said.
Although the argument of an ambulance at every site can be dismissed stating the availability of 108 ambulance service, experts are wary about the lack of ambulances at many locations.
“During peak traffic, it takes at least 15 minutes for the nearest ambulance to reach the accident spot. Thankfully, when the accident happened in August, there was an ambulance at the Pachaiyappa Metro site,” an official said.
Maintenance of ambulances seems to be another reason why many contractors don’t station one, said a specialist in emergency medical services. “Contractors complain about the high costs involved in maintaining ambulances. But they fail to realize it will cost more in the case of a fatal accident,” the official said.
Experts say that before the ambulance arrives, the injured must be administered first aid by a trained person. For this purpose, the Metro sites must have an attendant with a diploma or graduation in nursing. A doctor and nurse deployed at the site offices are expected to make daily rounds to the sites. But, each station has only one attendant throughout the day, an expert said.