Hi-tech ambulances to ply on highways One For Every 50 Km Of Highway; Six States To Be Covered In Fi
New Delhi: India, which records a road accident death every two minutes, has finally rolled out the ambitious Integrated Highway Trauma Care System. Under the programme, one state-of-the-art ambulance, equipped with a portable ventilator, advanced life support systems, oxygen cylinders and a defibrillator, is being provided by the Centre to man every 50-km stretch of the 3,000-km-long highway network, covering the Golden Quadrilateral and the North-South and East-West corridors. The ambulances will provide instant care to accident victims within the ‘golden hour’ or the crucial first hour after the accident. Over 100 state government hospitals have also been identified, which will be given a grant of Rs 4 crore each by the ministry to set up a trauma care centre, ICU and communication system to deal specially with hit-and-run cases. Under the first phase, the health ministry was to launch the project in six states — Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Orissa and Maharashtra. But lack of initiative and planning has cost Maharashtra dearly. At a meeting of the programme’s steering committee on December 27, the ministry decided to include Gujarat in place of Maharashtra under the first phase. A health ministry official told TOI: “For the past six months, the ministry has been asking Maharashtra to prepare an MoU according to which the Centre would finance the programme for the next five years after which the state will have to bear its cost.” “But Maharashtra’s officials don’t have a clue about how to start the project. Besides getting a Rs 50 lakh grant from the Centre to employ additional staff on contract in its district hospitals, the state would also get the ambulances for free. The state would not have to bear any cost of upgrading its hospitals and trauma centres with equipment and staff till 2012. The Maharashtra officials, however, came completely unprepared for the December 27 meeting.” “Gujarat, on the other hand, was to be covered under the second phase. But it already had its survey reports ready, had identified gaps and started civil work in anticipation. The ministry had no choice but to choose Gujarat over Maharashtra under the first phase itself,” the official added. Nearly Rs 42 crore will be divided among these six states over the next one year. The ministry official said: “We have already started giving out the grants. By April, the programme will start to run in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.” The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs cleared the programme on December 13. Finance minister P Chidambaram said the proposal entailed setting up 140 trauma centres at a total cost of Rs 732 crore during the 11th Plan period (2007-12). “These centres will be equipped with ambulances, blood banks and burns departments to handle cases of all kinds of injuries,” Chidambaram said. Because India faces a serious shortage of specialised emergency paramedics, the ministry is also starting a special one-year course on emergency care in several teaching hospitals and medical colleges. At present, an estimated 1.27 lakh people are seriously injured on the road in India every year of which 80,000 people die. This is 10% of all accident deaths globally.