Representative image. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Representative image. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Growing urbanisation and the need for motorbike ambulances

  • As the roads have been clogging up with heavy traffic, motorbike ambulances are making emergency healthcare easy
  • The idea behind the project is to reach medical help to the needy much faster

They say necessity is the mother of invention, and right they are.

As urbanisation makes rapid strides, roads have been clogging up with heavy traffic, making accessing emergency healthcare a challenge. This has led to solutions like Motorbike ambulance. In the last five years, India has witnessed the launch of this service in various parts of the country ranging from un-serviced extreme rural areas, to hills and fast developing metros.

Eventually, the idea drew the government’s attention also. The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), country’s apex research organisation on Thursday launched a pilot project “Mission DELHI (Delhi Emergency Life Heart-Attack Initiative)’’. Under the project, in a range of 3KM around All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) people may soon be able to call (toll free no’s 14430 and 1800111044) for a motorbike borne emergency medical assistance unit in the eventuality of heart attack or chest pain. The project has institutional support from Cardiology and Emergency Medicine departments of AIIMS and funding from ICMR.

The idea behind the project is to reach medical help to the needy much faster, given the high-density traffic conditions in the city where movement of four-wheeler ambulances becomes difficult. The project adopts a doorstep cardiac care model wherein timely emergency treatment will reach the patient before the condition gets worse, ICMR said.

“Under this project, a pair of motorcycle borne Trained Paramedic Nurses would be the first responders for treating heart attack patients. On getting the call, the pair would rush to the spot, gather basic information on his or her medical history conduct a quick medical examination, take the Electrocardiogram (ECG) of the patient, and establish a virtual connect to the cardiologists at AIIMS and deliver expert medical advice and treatment.," said Professor Balram Bhargava Director General ICMR.

In several parts of the country, private hospitals, NGOs, individuals or organisations in association with state governments are already running this service. For instance, the GVK Emergency Management and Research Institute in partnership with various governments across the nation runs responder bike (FRB) ambulances. Launched in Himachal Pradesh in 2018, it claims to have attended up to 1,000 emergencies in Shimla so far. Himachal was the first state in north India to start the service.

Private players in healthcare have been engaged in running such ambulance services. Mumbai-based Lodha Foundation in 2018 introduced a free round the clock bike ambulance service that is equipped with a first-aid kit and oxygen cylinder. Similarly, in 2017 the State Home Department of Gujarat launched two bike ambulances especially for the tribal population of Gujarat with the help of the Suraksha Setu Programme. Similar services are running in Karnataka and Goa as well for last couple of years.

According to a report in the peer-reviewed journal The Lancet, heart ailments caused more than 2.1 million deaths in India in 2015 at all ages, or more than a quarter of all deaths. For ages 30-69 years, of the 1.3 million cardiovascular deaths, 0.9 million (68.4%) were caused by coronary heart disease. According to an ICMR report, in 2016, heart diseases were the biggest killer, accounting for 28.1% of all deaths in India.

“This service has come as a blessing for the people in rural areas, where they don’t get any medical help when an emergency happens. Many times people residing in the remote areas don’t even have motorable or no road conditions, which get difficult for a four-wheeler. But motorbike ambulances can comparatively reach even to the inaccessible areas. These ambulances also help pregnant women to reach the nearest health centres," said Ajoy Khandheria, Founder, Gramin Healthcare, a medical group catering to rural health needs.

Apart from this, road accidents also need emergency medical services.

For such situations, the Max Healthcare chain of hospitals launched smart Max bike in 2017 in New Delhi. The bike is the responder with all the necessary live-saving equipment and is despatched alongside an ambulance, which normally reaches in around 15 minutes to provide critical first aid and stabilise the patient at no additional cost. Using Google maps and GIS technology, the hospital has optimised transit times which has helped us in making bike ambulances reach emergency patients within 15 minutes just when they need them.

“Over 90% of the population in urban cities prefers using their own vehicle to take a patient to the hospital as they do not have enough faith on the ambulance to arrive on time. In emergency cases, every minute lost decreases the chances of survival and might even lead to a permanent damage. In order to tackle this challenge we launched fully-equipped bike paramedics," said Vaibhav Poddar, Executive Vice President and Head - Max@Home, emergency services and rehabilitation medicine.