Within six months Tamil Nadu will have one-of-its-kind four-wheel drive ambulances, specially designed for the hilly areas of the State. The decision to procure smaller, four-wheel drive vehicles in the 108 ambulance service was taken to facilitate quicker rescue of patients from inaccessible areas and rough terrains.
A total of 78 four-wheel drive ambulances are to be procured. Areas with a significant share of tribal hilly regions including the Nilgiris district, the Krishnagiri district, Theni, Ooty, hilly regions of Vellore, Coimbatore and Kanyakumari will be the main beneficiaries of the scheme.
“The tenders for the vehicles are in the final stage. Once they are procured they will have to be fabricated and equipped with the medical equipment. We hope to have the vehicles in service in less than six months,” said Pankaj Kumar Bansal, mission director, State Health Society, Tamil Nadu.
The increased transportation time and difficulty in navigation in the hilly areas was a major concern for the health department. “We consulted a number of experts and it was after these discussions that the decision to take to four-wheel drive vehicles for ambulances was reached. These smaller and powerful vehicles will have an advantage on steep, muddy and narrow roads that are typical of hilly areas,” he said.
Each vehicle is estimated to cost around Rs 11.5 lakh inclusive of all the medical equipment. The tenders have already been placed and the vehicles could be procured within 2-3 months.
The low number of ambulance trips in the hilly regions of the State had been a cause of concern. In the year 2012-13, trips to tribal regions accounted for just roughly 2 per cent of the total trips made by the 108-ambulance service.