AHMEDABAD: To prevent death of newborns due to lack of medical emergency facilities in health centres, the Gujarat government has decided to launch a dedicated ambulance service to shift critically ill infants to better-equipped hospitals.
Under the 'Neonatal ambulance service project for inter-hospital transfer', the government would deploy 10 specially-equipped ambulances across the state, a senior health official said.
The decision has been taken following the successful completion of a year-long pilot project undertaken at the Jamnagar Civil Hospital, state health commissioner Dr Jayanti Ravi said.
A year ago, the Jamnagar Civil Hospital's superintendent mooted the idea of starting such a dedicated service, she said.
The superintendent cited many cases wherein newborns were required to be shifted to the Ahmedabad Civil Hospital from Jamanagar for better treatment, she said.
"The journey takes about five hours and at times infants do not survive on reaching Ahmedabad," Ravi told PTI.
"Thus, we started a dedicated ambulance service at Jamnagar under a pilot project last year.
We were able to save 43 newborns, thanks to the initiative.
Now, we have decided to start such a service for theentire state," she said.
Under the new project, 10 ambulances will be deployed in different hospitals across the state for responding to any requirement of urgent shifting of newborns to better-equipped hospitals, such as the Ahmedabad Civil Hospital, she said.
Some hospitals, like the primary health centres in rural areas, may not have specialist doctors or equipment to deal with medical emergencies in newborns, Ravi said.
"We have seen this in the case of G K General Hospital (located at Bhuj in Kutch district) wherein parents came with their infants from far-flung areas, travelling in buses and autorickshaws in the scorching heat. This delay was also a cause of infants' deaths," she noted.
Now, the aim is to minimise this delay so as to save babies, the health commissioner said.
The 10 dedicated ambulances will have the essential equipment, like baby warmer machines, to provide basic onboard treatment and comfort during the journey, she said.
"This facility will be linked to the '108' service and people can seek its help in case of an emergency," she added.
As per the National Family Health Survey of 2015-16, the infant mortality rate in rural areas of Gujarat was 39 (per 1,000 live births) against 27 in urban areas.