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Make way for the ambulance

Why is that we don't make way for ambulances on the road? Renuka Vijay Kumar questions...

PHOTO: K. RAMESH BABU

DEATH JAM Traffic chaos may slow down an ambulance, but does it have to spell death for a patient?

In London, commuters pull over to the side to make way for ambulances and in Paris, there is a separate lane for them, but in India, we do it differently. We try to make sure we overtake the vehicle in front of us before the ambulance does or make the most of the few people who clear the way and tail the ambulance itself.

An ambulance is meant to deliver first-aid and get a patient to the hospital in time for further treatment, but when the vehicle itself gets caught in traffic, all purpose of using an ambulance itself is lost. Dr. Sudarshan Kamlakar, a doctor in the emergency unit of a leading hospital says that while newer ambulances are equipped with better medical facilities, however it cannot measure up to what a hospital has to offer. "Yes, there are many times when getting a patient to the hospital on time helps the situation. For example, not all ambulances have a defibrillator (the device is used to administer electric shock to revive patients), so if a person suffers a heart attack on the way or collapses, nothing can be done."

Realtor Devan Sanghvi says, "The citizens of the twin cities set a bad example by not giving way to ambulances on the road. In London, the traffic parts as soon as the siren is heard. But here it is not so. A lot of lives can be saved by that extra minute or even a few extra seconds."

Concurring with him is Prasad Rao, a bank employee who feels that people have become so selfish that pulling over for a few seconds seems like a task to them. "A few years ago the situation was different. The traffic wasn't so bad, but how difficult is it for everybody to think along the same line and simultaneously move to the side of the road?"

As the vehicle population zips and zooms in the city, the speeds with which ambulances transport people is slowing down and in many cases patients miss the golden hour (the hour immediately after a medical emergency) thus complicating the case. "Two years back it used to take me 20 minutes to bring a patient from Secunderabad station to Jubilee Hills. Nowadays, it takes me at least 45 minutes to cover the same distance as the maintenance of the road has declined and the policemen are more busy challaning people rather than regulating traffic," says Mohammed Dastgir who has been an ambulance driver for the past 19 years with Apollo Hospitals.

Is this indifference because we are losing our sensibilities or it is that we simply don't care about the person next to us anymore?

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