Sunday, August 2, 2009

150 Ambulances before 2010 Games

Several deadlines and changes later, Delhi government’s ambitious project — augmentation of existing Centralized Accident and Trauma Services (CATS) fleet from 35 to 150 is finally rolling. The health department has signed a Public Private Partnership (PPP) agreement with Fortis Healthcare. The first set of 50 ambulances will be delivered by January 2010.

‘‘By July next year, the facility will be completely in place. We are going to be very strict with deadlines. The ambulance services will be operated by Fortis Healthcare, but the ambulances will be owned by the government,’’ said Delhi health minister Kiran Walia.

Of the 150 ambulances, nine will be advance life support (ALS) and 141 will be basic life support (BLS) vehicles. ‘‘The existing 35 ambulances will be phased out soon and would be replaced by BLS ambulances,’’ said a senior CATS official. At least, 20 first responders’ bikes, which will carry first-aid to congested alleys, will also, be pressed into service. ‘‘The ambulance on motorbikes or first responders is a new concept. These bikes will be able to reach congested areas in no time and provide first aid,’’ said a CATS official.

According to the agreement, Fortis will have to hire its own staff (paramedics) to run the service. Once operational, it would cost the government Rs 1.23 crore per month. ‘‘The government has paid a fixed amount under the PPP for the purchase of ambulances and would be paying a monthly annuity once it is operational. But the payment of Rs 1.23 crore per month is subject to certain conditions like the minimum number of trips made by each ambulance in a month,’’ said the official. Of the 150 ambulances, 39 will be run by the CATS department.

The government has made the services free for several categories like below poverty line, trauma cases. ‘‘As it is a PPP model, Fortis is free to charge patients for the service provided. But we have exempted some categories who can avail the services for free or at government decided rates,’’ said the official.

During the Commonwealth Games, these ambulances will be strategically stationed near the Games venues and residential complexes of CWG officials and athletes. The service will be available under the toll-free number 102.