Be it the protesters on the streets of Delhi outraged by the Citizenship Amendment Act or the plummeting temperature in the city — Rajendra Saini, a trained paramedic working with the state government braves them all everyday on his bike ambulance and attends patients in need of emergency medical care. He feels his job is special, because it earns him friends from across different caste, creed and religion as the debate over citizenship law has revived old fault lines in the society.
"It does not matter what the weather is or what the law and order situation is. My job is to attend the patients who are in need of emergency medical care and win their hearts with my service," he said. Saini is among the 16 paramedics appointed by the Delhi Health Department to carry out "quality emergency health care with speed" on a motorcycle.
While four-wheeler ambulances aren't a novelty, bike ambulance scheme is first of its kind in India. Last year in February, the Delhi health department launched the unique First Response Vehicle scheme comprising of 16 bike ambulances to attend to the medical emergencies as and when required.
"Some medical emergencies are so painful that they require immediate care to prevent further deterioration of the condition. For example, if a bone fracture is not immediately guarded by a splinter than it may result into further damage. Similarly, patients with breathing problem may face serious health disorders if they are not provided with oxygen immediately. But in a number of congested localities in the city, ambulances take time to reach the patients — sometimes because of narrow lanes. The bike ambulances come handy in such situations," said an official from the Delhi health department.
Delhi has 1,797 unauthorised colonies which are home to more than 40 lakh of the National Capital's population and 685 jhuggi jhopdi clusters with 4,20,000 households. These colonies are infamous for their narrow lanes which makes it difficult during emergency situations. A major chunk of these colonies are in the East Delhi area of the capital city. The bike ambulance scheme was launched mainly to cater to these colonies.
The Delhi health department owns 200 four-wheeler ambulances which can be availed at a phone call to the number 102. The call centre in Laxmi Nagar, armed with 60 professionals, get calls from patients and deploy the bike ambulances accordingly. According to official records, every month over 800 such cases are recieved which can be attended only by bike ambulances. In the last one year, the service of these vehicles have helped save more than 1,600 lives, official records show.
"There are more than 10 categories of medical emergencies which bike ambulances attend. The call centre takes the decision about whether a bike ambulance is required or not," said a source in the Delhi health department. According to Bhupendra Rawat, a human rights activist, the scheme has achieved much more than just providing emergency medical care.
"The question is not only about how many lives the service has saved, but the sense of security it has provided to the people travelling in the capital city. Hope the Delhi government extends the service to the less congested areas also," he said.
Jaswant Singh Rana, the administrative officer running the ambulance scheme under the health department told Firstpost that it is likely to be extended to the lesser congested areas of the city as well. "We have already submitted proposal for the extension and hope that it will be done in the next financial year," he said.
The fleet of bike ambulances have also proven to be a rescue team, says Shahnawaz Khan a resident of East Delhi who availed the services of bike ambulances to save a life. "Five months ago while driving across East Delhi, I saw a man lying on a street. I called the police control room which assured to send a team of police officials to the spot. I was also told to call the 102 phone number for an ambulance. To my surprise within 10 minutes after I made the call, a paramedic arrived at the spot on a bike even before the police and treated the person. He also told me that I could leave if I wanted to because it is his responsibility now to ensure that the person gets the immediate medical care and is shifted to a hospital," Khan said.
Rakesh Sharma, another resident of East Delhi, who availed the bike ambulance scheme told Firstpost, "I called the bike ambulance three months ago when I met with a road accident in Shastri Park area. The paramedic arrived within 10 minutes of the call. He took me by the roadside and did required diagnosis including testing level of oxygen in my blood. He gave me medicines and oxygen. Soon I felt better. For the first time I felt that I am not helpless in Delhi."
The Delhi government scheme has also helped victims of road accidents, fire incidents, strokes while serving as the feeder services for ambulances. The bike ambulances, which carry more than 16 equipments, provide immediate care to victims of road accidents, strokes, bone fractures, decrease in oxygen levels in the body and have even delivered babies. They also are equipped with a foldable stretcher to carry patient out of congested localities into a four-wheeler ambulance.
“The two-wheeler First Response Vehicles are small but innovative part of the vast medical care infrastructure built by the Delhi Health Department. Apart from saving lives by providing immediate interference it also enables the larger facilities to function effectively by streamlining the treatment in the right direction," says Shaleen Mitra secretary to the Delhi health minister.
Significantly, in the last five years of the AAP government the capital city witnessed a massive increase in it's health budget — from Rs 3,500 crore to Rs 7,500 crore. In it’s very first year, the Delhi government came up with Mohalla Clinics where primary healthcare is provided free of cost. Healthcare in the National Capital under the Kejriwal government has recieved many accolades.
Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain recently told the media, "The 450 functional Aam Aadmi Mohalla clinics offer 125 free medicines and 212 free lab tests. Since its inception in 2015 till December 2019, clinics have seen over 2 crore OPDs with over 15 lakh laboratory tests. Most of them are digital with the data with respect to the name, age, ailment, prescribed medicines and lab tests are captured in eTablets."
BJP's core voter bank remains unimpressed
Though these schemes go well with the party’s core voter base, but voters who are financially well off have shown indifference to these schemes. "The poor might have benefitted from the health schemes. But they don’t seem to have made any dent in the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) prime vote bank who are mostly in the middle class and upper middle class segment as they hardly ever go to avail these schemes. For example the traders have got no benefit from the AAP government,” said Sumit Agarwal trader himself who has his business establishment in Chattarpur.
Interestingly, the BJP is trying to downplay the scheme by questioning it's utility. Ramesh Khanna, a leader in saffron party's Delhi unit told Firspost that the infrastructural deficiencies in Delhi's health sector should have been met with before launching schemes like Bike Ambulance.
"The AAP claims development in the health sector. They could have made this claim only if the government hospitals had medical infrastructure like private hospitals. But in Delhi this is still not the case. If we visit any government hospital in Delhi, we would see that there not enough beds in them. Patients have to sleep on the floor. When there aren't enough beds for patients in hospitals, what good will schemes like bike ambulance or publishing advertisement of schemes be of any help? The BJP is committed to develop core competencies in the sector rather than launching schemes for gimmicks," he said.
Core BJP supporters have dismissed schemes launched by the ruling AAP and said that the problems that existed five years ago, still remain and the AAP government has not been of much use to solve them. Ravinder Singh, a trader from Delhi who identifies himself as a BJP supporter, hold grudge against the Kejriwal government over the sealing drive and how the AAP did not stand up for the traders.
"For the past few months thousands of buildings have been sealed because they violated norms. The AAP government was of very little help. Due to the sealing drive, thousands of traders have lost businesses. We did not receive any help from the government," he said.
More than 6,000 buildings have been sealed since the drive began in December 2017. Thousands have been rendered jobless due to the Supreme Court monitored drive. Another BJP voter Ambarish Sharma told Firstpost that the issue which concerns him the most is regularisation of unauthorised colonies which the AAP could not solve.
"I live in an unauthorised colony in Badarpur. Though I bought my house nearly 15 years ago, I do not have ownership documents of the property. I could not get loan due to this. Moreover, buyers offer price far lower than the market rates for the property even if I try to sell it. But the Centre has recently decided to open regularisation process of these colonies solving my decade-long issue. I am not going to vote on the small benefits the AAP government is doling out," he said.
The Centre recently passed a bill to regularise 1,797 unauthorised colonies. The Delhi Development Authority kickstarted the regularisation process on the month of December 2019.
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Updated Date: Jan 23, 2020 16:34:46 IST