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Updated: June 21, 2013 13:02 IST

“Many prefer unsafe transport mode to ambulance”

R. Sujatha
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Srivatsan Raghavan. Photo: R. Ravindran
Srivatsan Raghavan. Photo: R. Ravindran

Srivatsan Raghavan's visiting card says: Vision: In PPP framework respond to 30 million emergencies and save one million lives annually by 2011.

For someone who wanted to take up social service only after retirement and who believed that his skills were of value to only his boss, EMRI provided a “spark.”

The IIM-A graduate tells R. Sujatha that he “was amazed to learn that the set of skills that are valued by the private sector and shareholders for profit-making could be leveraged to provide public good.”

“Here, I had the opportunity to do social work, get paid a reasonable amount and deliver enormous value by leveraging public assets,” says Srivatsan Raghavan, Chief Operating Officer of EMRI of his decision.

“We started with 400 ambulances in Andhra Pradesh. Today, we have the world's largest fleet of 2,700 ambulances across 10 States though we don't own any of them.” Though awareness is higher now, there are several misconceptions about ambulance services.

Biggest challenges

The biggest challenges are apathy of the people and the unsafe transport modes that they prefer over ambulances, he adds.

“Ambulance is a service that nobody wants,” he rues.

Though the State has on road 385 ambulances, it will need 600 vehicles to provide “proper” service.

Even Chennai needs more ambulances, he says.

Often, callers panic and need assurance that help is on its way.

While urban dwellers cannot believe that the government can offer good service, villagers want to know if it is free.

“Making the call to 108 is the first barrier. Don't hesitate to call even if it is midnight. And wait for the ambulance. Our job is to take the patient to the nearest hospital and our average response time is 21 minutes,” says Mr. Raghavan.

Many of the 2,000 childbirths in the State have been conducted by male paramedics in the ambulance but women employees are subjected to sexual harassment, he says.

EMRI makes sure that women are posted only in primary health centres or where there is safe shelter for them.

Learning on ground

“We have been learning on the ground. Now, we station ambulances close to police stations so that we can take the police along if it is a medico legal case,” he says.

The ambulance driver and paramedics are taught to take care of their own safety if faced with a frenzied mob.

“A victim of crime is picked up from the spot without tampering evidence. We also review our technicians' work and develop training programmes and refresher courses as necessary.”

He has to tackle complaints of late arrivals and stray incidents of staff asking for money. Such employees are dismissed from service if investigations reveal that the complaint is genuine.

“One of the biggest challenges is to keep the persons on track,” Mr. Srivatsan says, as he reviews the new recruits' work.

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R. SujathaJune 28, 2012

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