Last week, several ambulances struggled to enter Government Kilpauk Medical College (KMC) Hospital as traffic turned chaotic owing to a hitch in the metro rail tunnelling work.

A few metres away from the sole entry to KMC on Poonamallee High (P.H.) Road, workers were trying to clear the overflow of water from a Metrowater pipeline due to the tunnelling works. This left the stretch congested till afternoon.

But traffic jams and detours are nothing new for ambulances and patients coming to KMC. Ever since the tunnelling works began near KMC, the one-way traffic on P.H. Road and detour via Gengu Reddy subway-Spurtank road-Chetpet to reach the hospital has put patients in a quandary.

Health care professionals note that the first 60 minutes – also referred to as the golden hour – is crucial in saving a trauma patient. But the current traffic arrangement is time consuming and involves ambulances travelling additional distances.

An ambulance driver said they had to travel at least three kilometres more to bring a patient from Purasawalkam or Choolai to KMC via Chetpet. “If the patient is from areas around Purasawalkam, it is a detour that takes extra time,” he added.

Peak hours turn nightmarish for patients rushing to KMC. “There is traffic congestion during peak hours including on P.H. Road and Chetpet. Many times, people just refuse to give way for ambulances,” he added.

B. Siva, an auto driver, said, “I have rushed pregnant women and mothers with sick infants to the hospital. But going around Chetpet takes a lot of time.” Kumar, a patient’s attendant, said the detour caused a lot of tension.

A postgraduate student at KMC said now, it took an additional 15-20 minutes to bring a patient to the hospital. Officials said 108 ambulances mostly brought patients with burns from across the city and medical and trauma patients from west Chennai to KMC.

Those with head injuries were taken to Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital. The detour is necessary if patients are from areas in north Chennai such as Tondiarpet, Royapuram, Tiruvottiyur and Vyasarpadi.

Hospital officials said there was no problem for ambulances in entering.

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