Lack of critical care services takes a toll on Kashmir residents

Ambulance service in Kashmir

ost of the victims of road accidents or violence-related incidents have succumbed to their injuries before reaching the hospital, in the absence of or due to lack of critical care transport ambulances and emergency services in the Kashmir Valley.

It has come to light that emergency services, such as Basic Life Support (BLS) and Advanced Life Support (ALS), are unavailable most of the times in the region.

To add to the woes, there is no emergency dialling system in the valley, leading to a large number of deaths due to unavailability of first aid.

Lack of equipment

The valley’s biggest maternity hospital, Lal Ded Hospital, has only six vans in service and that too without necessary medical equipment fitted which are provided to the hospital to ferry the patients.

Most of the ambulances are in a shabby condition. Patients are carried like cattle in these ambulances as there is no life support attached with it and nobody cares about patients when the authorities are in sleeping mode,” said an ambulance driver of the hospital who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Most of the ambulances that ferry patients in Kashmir do not come along with ALS or BLS systems. (Photo: Rouf Ahmad Roshangar)

He added these ambulances were just white vans with siren.

The government multi-specialty hospital, Shri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital (SMHS), in the valley also lacks ambulance services as the hospital has only one critical care transport ambulance. Dozens of emergency cases are being treated on a regular basis at SMHS.

“On an average, at least six to seven patients come to us daily for critical care ambulances to ferry their patients, but we can’t do anything as the hospital has only one Advanced Life Support Ambulance (ALS). Rest of the vans are also not attached with basic life support,” said Ajaz (name changed), a driver of the hospital.

No trained staff

Nisar ul Haq, president of doctor association of Kashmir (DAK), said he would prefer his patients to be carried in trucks rather than these so-called ambulances.

He said that most of the heart attacks, strokes and trauma patients die in transit or while ferrying them because ambulances have no trained staff who can take care of the patient till they reach the hospital.

We don’t even have basic life support ambulances, leave alone advance life support ambulances. Our ambulances are neither connected with radio system nor are they fitted with required gadgets that ambulances should have. We don’t even have an emergency dialling system for ambulances here,” added the doctor.

Emergency dialing system not functional

However, Director Health Services Kashmir (HQ) Kunzes Dolma denied any such shortage of ambulances.

He said, We have sufficient number of ambulances in Kashmir. The total number of ambulances is 544, out of which 11 are Critical Care Ambulances. Emergency dialing system is not functional yet and it’s still under process.

An official from the Sher-I-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS) said there should be fully equipped ambulances in Kashmir, not ferry vans. He also asked for a ventilator in the ambulances.

Apart from these things, there should be a doctor in the ambulance for emergency cases. Several procedures that can be carried out on the way are cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) intubation, tracheotomy, defibrillator to give DC for shocks for VT/VF and crash kart, he added.

As of now, there is a dire need of specific designed vehicles (SDVs) to transport critical patients to the medical facilities or hospitals. A fully-trained medical personnel is also required in the vehicles, fitted with equipment used to stabilise patients’ condition in the event of an emergency.