Patients requiring emergency ambulance services were in for a shock on Saturday evening when the 108 Arogya Kavacha call centre suddenly stopped answering emergency calls. The problem spilled over on Sunday and officials attributed this to a technical glitch at the call centre. Although the issue was rectified temporarily by evening, officials said a complete resolution is possible only by Monday.
On Sunday, while many patients had to opt for private ambulances, several others had to undergo hardship.
A 65-year-old woman in Idihalli of Madhugiri taluk, who required emergency medical service, died at her residence as the family was not able to get a 108 emergency ambulance. Taking note of this, Principal Secretary (Health) T.K. Anil Kumar said he will get this probed.
The 108 Arogya Kavacha service, run by the State government on a public-private partnership model (PPP) model with GVK-EMRI, was launched in 2008.
GVK-EMRI Chief Executive Officer Hanumanth R.G. told The Hindu that the problem occurred owing to a technical glitch in the motherboard of the 14-year-old server in the emergency response centre (ERC).
“Although our engineers tried to repair the motherboard, that was not possible as the software did not support it. Also, as the server is an outdated one, the spares are not available now. While we usually get an average of 9,000 emergency calls a day, we have hardly received around 2,000 calls since Saturday night. While the phone rings for the caller, all calls did not land on our system and hence could not be connected,” he explained.
“Usually, a call gets connected in two-three minutes. But due to this glitch, either calls did not get connected or took more than eight minutes to land,” he said.
The CEO said as a temporary arrangement, the backup server has been connected and calls will be answered through this system for the time being.
“However, a complete resolution will be possible only by Monday after our team of technical experts completes its work,” he said.
State Health Commissioner Randeep D. said the department is exploring options of patching the 108 calls landing on other helplines such as 104, 112, and the Bescom helpline.
The Principal Secretary, who chaired a video conference with all district officials, said three-four decentralised control rooms have been set up in each district with the existing numbers and workers, including ASHAs, have been asked to circulate the numbers in the community.
“People can call these control rooms till the issue is resolved completely,” he said.
Health and Medical Education Minister K. Sudhakar, who called upon the people not to panic, said the Health Department is trying to ensure that people are not put to hardship.
“District officials have been asked to put in place a contingency plan and ensure unhindered service,” he said.
The Minister said all hospitals have been directed to prioritise inter-facility transfer of patients. “We have also directed all the 108 ambulance staff to respond immediately to patients if anyone calls them on their personal numbers. We have asked them to create manual IDs and provide emergency service to the needy,” he said.
“Also, officials have been directed to deploy more personnel to man the 112 helpline so that they can divert the emergency calls received there to the 108 team. Missed calls are also being taken into consideration and steps have been taken to increase the number of tele-agents on the 108 helpline,” the Minister said.