Virtually cut-off from the modern world, tribals living in inaccessible terrain and dense forests of Chhattisgarh’s insurgency-hit Narayanpur district never imagined that they would get timely medical care, till the launch of a motorbike ambulance service sometime back. The free motorbike ambulance service, launched one-and-a-half years back in the region, has changed their views and now at least 35 villages in Dhanora and Dongar areas, located around 400 kms from the state capital, with no proper road connectivity, are availing the facility.
“Ensuring medical help was a challenging task in this area due to its geographical location. Only a bike ambulance was the solution to ensure instant medical assistance,” Bhupesh Tiwari, founder of ‘Saathi’ (friend) NGO, told PTI. The concept was devised and introduced jointly by Saathi and UNICEF. “We did a lot of research in this area, watched online videos and found how this (motorbike ambulance service) was being practised in the remote areas of African countries. Finally, we got an engineer in Vijayawada who gave our idea a final shape,” said Tiwari, who has been engaged in social service from past 25 years in Bastar region, as reported by PTI.
The area used to be a godforsaken land caught under the spell of quacks and black magic. For medical assistance, villagers had to cover several kilometres on foot through dense forests. Maternal health issue, specially institutional delivery, was a far cry in the area, he said. Under a pilot project, the idea of motorbike ambulance was introduced and in just a short span of time it has ferried around 272 patients, mostly pregnant women, to the nearest primary health centres, he said. “Although we are taking care of all kinds of patients, our aim is to decrease the neo-natal and maternal deaths in the region by promoting institutional delivery of babies,” Tiwari said.
As of now only one motorbike ambulance is being run in the tribal area. It has a ‘side car’ with an adapted mattress attached to it and equipped with an oxygen cylinder. The rider has been given basic first-aid training so as to deal with any emergency condition, he said. Poor mobile connectivity is another major issue while working in this area as sometime villagers find it difficult to instantly contact the ambulance driver. However, gradually people are being made aware about the service. The ambulance is generally stationed at Dhanora or Dongar PHCs so that one can easily contact it, Tiwari said. “Besides, we also provide an encouragement amount of Rs 300 to the women who contact us and bring the pregnant women for delivery at PHCs,” he said.
Moreover, the motorbike ambulance also works in coordination with ‘108’ ambulance (vans) as sometime patients are brought to main-road and further shifted to nearby hospital in well-equipped ambulance van, he said. The state government has decided to soon expand the facility in other remote parts of the state. “Motorbike ambulance service has yielded fruitful results in Narayanpur. Now, we have planned to extend the service to Bijapur, Dantewada and Sukma districts of Bastar region and Barampur district of Sarguja region,” state health services director R Prasanna said. Initially, at least 10 bike ambulances will be pressed into the task, in a tie-up with ‘108’ ambulance in these areas, he said. Youths in these areas, who are well aware of the geographical condition and location of villages and hamlets in Surguja and Bastar division, will be preferred for handling bike ambulances, he said. Besides, some selected youths will also be imparted basic medical training, he added.