Every minute, at least 4 persons die in accidents, which makes India an accident-prone country

As shocking as the recent death of Union Minister for Rural Development Gopinath Munde was, even a cursory reading of India’s record in road safety will drive home the chilling fact that anyone on the roads is vulnerable to tragedy.

Every minute, at least four persons get killed in a road traffic accident (RTA) in India, which makes it one of the most accident-prone countries of the world. In 2013, RTAs shot up to 4.9 lakh, with a death toll of 1.38 lakh people.

Going by the World Health Organisation’s 2013 Global Status Report on Road Safety, India had an accident death rate of 12 per lakh of the population in 2010.

Only 28 countries, housing 416 million (hardly 7 per cent of the global population), have adequate laws that address all five behavioural risk factors such as speed, drunk-driving, helmets, seat-belts, and child restraints, and India does not figure on that list.

Emergency physicians say remedy for a country with an accident death rate of 12 per lakh of the population is simple.

The Society for Emergency Medicine, India (SEMI), has appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to roll out a plan to provide better trauma care services to all Indians.

According to S. Ramkumar, a Puducherry physician now serving in EMS Memorial Hospital, Perinthalmanna, Kerala, it is alarming to note that, according to WHO estimates, RTAs would kill or disable more than half-a-million Indians a year by 2020.

“Many of these deaths and disabilities would be significantly reduced if Indians had timely access to clinical services designed to tackle emergencies,” he said.

“It is important that any plan to broad-base specialised emergency medicine departments is backed by providing a legal framework to emergency medicine services stakeholders such as ambulance providers, a single toll-free line and a Good Samaritan Law that will safeguard those who volunteer to help on accident sites from trouble,” said Tamorish Kole, SEMI president in Delhi.

Emergency Medical Services are different from the regular casualty functions in that they are a highly specialised and structured domain of care, said Liz Clark, SEMI spokesperson and hospital analyst at KIMS, Thiruvananthapuram.

“In the Indian situation, most casualties are left to be manned by relatively junior doctors, especially in the night, whereas EMS units are managed by experienced professionals at all times,” Ms. Clark said.

Emergency physicians point out that trauma services start with the safe transport of a victim to a hospital or care centre, by trained professionals who have access to an ambulance that can provide life-saving drugs and equipment. “Too often people are brought to the hospital by private car or auto-rickshaws, which results in delay and compounding injury because bystanders are not trained to safely move an accident victim,” Dr. Ramkumar said.

When a patient reaches hospital, providing access to a proper emergency medicine department can make the difference between stabilising a patient for surgery or allowing the patient to die while waiting for further direction while hospital administration and other doctors determine appropriate steps.

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