Delhi: Patients suffer as faulty GPS hamper emergency ambulance services

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Delhi: Patients suffer as faulty GPS hamper emergency ambulance services

CATS, the emergency ambulance service launched by the Delhi government, has come under the scanner after ambulances failed to reach the patients on time. Miscommunication between the control room and the ambulances is said to cause this delay.

The Delhi government's centralised ambulance trauma services (CATS) scheme is not able to pick up at least 50 per cent of accident and emergency patients as ambulances are failing to reach them in time.

The ambulances get delayed by an hour on an average due to which patients are suffering and drivers are facing the heat of public anger. The much-hyped service is hit by control room mismanagement and ill equipped vehicles. This is the situation despite a large chunk of CATS being outsourced with the hope that it would improve the quality of service.

A CATS insider said the control room which deputes ambulances to the spot through GPS is not able to contact the nearest ambulance in times of need. Instead, it suggests ambulances that are far away from the spot - in some cases, vehicles that are 30 km away.

Sources said the government has spent huge amounts of money on this 'modern' control room, but the situation on the ground is pathetic. The control room, which is based at Laxmi Nagar, is not able to operate the rapid tracking system.

A senior CATS official informed that in a day, there are more than 1,000 calls.

An ambulance driver, on condition of anonymity told Mail Today, "I was deputed at Tilak Nagar and I received a call to pick up a patient from Nangloi. It was a long distance and by the time we reached the spot, the patient's relatives called a private ambulance and we faced the people's anger for turning up late." He said that earlier, all the ambulance staffs were provided with wireless system which was connected to the control room all the time.

But ever since the high-tech and fully computerised CATS control room has been set up, it is proving worthless and has affected the functioning of ambulances.

"The software in the computer system is highly complicated and hard to understand. It needs to be upgraded relevantly in a simplified manner so that the entry of calls and dispatch of calls to the right ambulance could be done easily and in a speedy manner," said Narendra Lakra, president of CATS ambulance staff union.

The Delhi government operates 265 ambulances under CATS, of which 240 are functional. Of these, most are not well equipped to carry critical ill patients, Lakra added. A senior government official said Delhi being the national capital and since the city is always on high alert on the security front, the ambulance service should be robust. "Be it environmental disasters, accidents, transportation of pregnant women, epidemics such as dengue, chikungyuna and swine flu, if this miscommunication from the control room to the ambulance drivers continue, it can risk the patients' lives. At present, these ambulances are unreliable," he said.

According to sources, there is an urgent need to resolve the very serious lapses and deterioration in the operating system of CATS control room. All the data from entering a call to dispatching an ambulance gets lost from the screen when the computer gets stuck, an official said.

Speaking to Mail Today, LS Rana, Administrative Officer at Operation CATS, accepted there are some issues of miscommunication at the control room. "Previously, a couple of ambulances were dispatched to far-off locations. In the past few days, we have received a few complaints from our team, on which we are working," he said.