Rs 60 lakh ambulance eyes return

A state-of-the-art cardiac ambulance, worth Rs 60 lakh and equipped with a host of add-ons like an external defibrillator that helps revive patients from potentially life-threatening situations, is set to roll out after lying unused at the Patliputra Medical College and Hospital since 2011.

Last week, PMCH authorities handed over documents concerning the air-conditioned ambulance ' it is also equipped with a host of sophisticated medical gadgets like wireless ECG and a special stretcher ' to the Dhanbad Red Cross Society on the initiative of deputy commissioner Prashant Kumar.

However, it will be some time before the ambulance actually makes its way to the Red Cross office as the unused vehicle would need to go through some initial repairs before it can get back on the road.

The fully-equipped vehicle had been provided to the district health department by the state government for use during the 34th National Games. The ambulance, which arrived in Dhanbad in the first week of February, 2011, was meant for more than 1,000 players and officials who were in the district to participate in various disciplines of the Games.

However, the air-conditioned machine never got out of the PMCH campus. Hospital authorities claimed they were unable to use it as its insurance and permit expired. And typical of Jharkhand, the hospital management did not think it worthwhile enough to get the ambulance rolling again.

The PMCH excuse: the hospital is concerned with "static medical services", ie treating patients who came to the health hub on their own, and hence, it did not have any role to play in the field.

Secretary of Dhanbad Red Cross Society P.K. Bhagat confirmed to The Telegraph that the deputy commissioner had indeed handed over the vehicle with all official papers on January 19.

"We changed the batteries of the vehicle but it failed to start. Hence, we have sent our staff to Ranchi to get another battery and get the vehicle up and running again.," Bhagat said.

The new ambulance, once on the road, will be the second to be operated by Red Cross Society in Dhanbad. The first ambulance had been presented to it by social organisation Raftaar in June last year.

"Usually, ambulances charge around Rs 12 per kilometre for ferrying patients. We will charge Rs 8 per kilometre only," Bhagat, who is also district tuberculosis control officer, said.

The Red Cross was in the last final stages of negotiations with State Bank of India for buying a third ambulance, an approval for which is expected to come in the next four-five days.

"We are also looking to tie up with various private sector hospitals like Durgapur-based The Mission Hospital and Ranchi's Apollo Hospital to hire more ambulances. The idea is to develop the capacity of the society and come up with our own fleet of vehicles that can respond to emergencies anywhere and serve people better," Bhagat added.

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