Critical Care Ambulances Saving Golden Hour in Kashmir Winter

“The aim of these ambulances is to save lives and pre-hospital mortality by providing emergency medical transport and critical care.”

WITH winter heightening health issues especially chest problems, a critical-care ambulance is tackling another season of emergences in Kashmir.

Since the rate of heart attacks rises in winters, the medics say, the fatalities can be saved if the patient is treated in the golden hour.

“This is where our ambulances save the situation,” Dr. Riyaz Ahmad, head of the ambulance service, said.

“The aim of these ambulances is to save lives and pre-hospital mortality by providing emergency medical transport and critical care. We’ve specialists at our control room, who monitor every single call to check if it’s really a medical emergency. Then these calls are transferred to the medical technician who refers this call to the ambulance pilot. Then a patient is given an estimated time in which the ambulance will reach their place. Our only goal is to reach as soon as possible.”

Equipped with five-channel patient care monitors, ECG machines, lifesaving cardiac defibrillators, oxygen supply and other emergency ancillary equipment, these ambulances handle any medical or surgical emergency.

Set up in 2019, the critical-care ambulance brings emergency healthcare service to some of Kashmir’s godforsaken lands, where people have to carry patients on shoulders.

The medical service is currently functioning in Srinagar, Baramulla, Anantnag and Kupwara.

“Last winter, we carried a pregnant woman on a stretcher from a remote location in Kupwara,” Dr. Riyaz said.

“The snow was so high that our ambulance wasn’t able to reach the exact location. But we did manage to provide her the necessary health support and she safely managed to reach the hospital.”

Most of these emergency health calls are from Kupwara, the medic informed, and are related to cardiac pains.

Pertinently, rural healthcare has remained an emergency issue despite various government initiatives. Due to lack of health infrastructure, some major health complications augment the fatality rate.

In this backdrop, the critical-care ambulance—an initiative of KASHMER, a Kashmiri American Society for Medical Education and Research—is filling the vacuum.

The service is run by a well-trained team of professionals which includes emergency critical-care certified triage physicians, emergency medical technicians (EMT), and pilots.

“We provide pre-hospital care functioning as emergency ICU while patients are being transferred to the nearest and qualified medical centers for definitive medical care,” said Dr. Riyaz, Project Director KASHMER, adding that people should refrain from using private vehicles during any health emergency.

“The idea of using market-based solutions to help provide accessible healthcare to the rural makes perfect sense. Over the last decade, we’ve seen how healthcare in rural areas suffer due to unprecedented situations. But our cross-subsidised model has helped several thousand people get to hospital, saving thousands of lives in the process.”

Treating patients as valued customers also gives the team a sense of dignity, Dr Riyaz said.

“The service offers poor people a rare opportunity to hold their health provider accountable,” the medic said. “This means that anyone can access emergency healthcare at their own doorstep, that too, for free. The ultimate goal is to extend services to all the districts in Kashmir valley and beyond and hence supplement the services already provided by the local administration.”

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Zaid Bin Shabir

Zaid Bin Shabir is a special correspondent at Kashmir Observer. He tweets @Zaidbinshabir

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