CHENNAI: They are an elite unit among the paramedics. Elite, as there are only 10 of them in the whole of Chennai. Introduced during the previous regime of Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa on February 8, bike ambulances have proved to be a blessing, especially considering the traffic woes of a city like Chennai.
The ones who are part of this project, still in its nascent stage are experienced paramedics. Thirty-year-old K Kumar, from Kambam in Theni district was a nursing assistant for eight years at the Government Hospital in Theni before he became a ‘first responder’. Kumar’s typical day starts at 8 am and ends half a day later.
“On an average, we attend 4-5 cases in a day,” says Kumar, who is stationed near the Anna flyover. The primary motto of the bike ambulance, Kumar says, is to respond to cases immediately, especially in case of road accidents where first aid is crucial. “Our response time is ideally eight minutes, though it also depends on factors beyond our control…like traffic diversions sometimes,” he adds.
In his previous job as a nursing assistant, Kumar dealt with cases that arrived at the hospital. From suturing to cleaning up cut wounds, the work he did for eight years was on people who were already referred to as ‘patients’ and were only known to him by their bed numbers. So, how does he feel to be a first responder?
“It’s an additional responsibility but there’s more human connect here. You feel good about yourself,” says Kumar, recalling a recent incident.
On Monday, an MTC bus conductor had developed complications in his abdomen while on duty in Triplicane. “The driver parked the bus by the side and I administered first aid in the bus itself before he was shifted to an ambulance,” Kumar said.
He also remembers attending to a homeless man who fell unconscious while begging at the Sai Baba temple in Mylapore. “Like I said earlier, I’m happy and satisfied with my job as the public recognises and appreciates our work. Police have also appreciated our work.”
There is a doctor specially assigned to direct and guide the first responders. Their bike is equipped with all necessary first aid items that can be found in a regular ambulance, except for the stretcher.
Most of the calls come from road accidents, where first aid is crucial, says an official with GVK-EMRI, which runs the 108 ambulance services in the State. As of now, there are 10 bike ambulances in the city, of which two are kept on standby. Apart from these, scooter ambulances are also being used.
“The government has announced that the city will be allotted 25 more of them. Soon, we can expect another set of first responders to be commissioned,” said the GVK official.
It’s an additional responsibility but there’s more human connect here. You feel good about yourself. I’m happy with my job as the public appreciates our work.
— Kumar, paramedic