Public-private partnership can make air ambulance a realitySeptember 29th, 2010 - 6:22 pm ICT by IANS
Bangalore, Sep 29 (IANS) Using helicopters as air ambulance to render emergency treatment in India has a long way to go for want of infrastructure and prohibitive hiring costs, say experts and believe a public-private partnership (PPP) could help.
“The concept of helicopters being used as air ambulance in India is yet to take-off, as little progress has been made in building infrastructure or reducing hiring costs,” said Rajya Sabha member Sitaram Yechury at a seminar on ‘Helicopter Emergency Medical Services and Development of Helipads’.
In his keynote address at the fourth edition of the national seminar as chairman of the parliamentary standing committee on transport, tourism and culture, Yechury Tuesday regretted that even after four years, there was no forward movement on launching such a service.
Rotary Wing Society of India (RWSI) President K. Sridharan said infrastructure was yet to be built for importing or manufacturing choppers, building helipads in cities, covering the cost of air ambulance through insurance and tying up with hospitals for providing the quick service.
Though India has about 260 private copters in service, including 40 for oil & gas exploration, state-run Pawan Hans Helicopter estimated that there was an urgent need for 100 choppers to launch air ambulance service in metros and cities across the country.
“We had to discontinue a course on aero-medical emergency as job prospects for the candidates were bleak though building human capital for such a service remains a challenge,” Sridharan noted.
Aero medical specialists in choppers provide advanced life support to serious patients in-flight or at the accident spot. The copters are turned into mini-intensive care units (ICUs) for trauma care to individuals and mass casualties.
Building public helipads is another challenge facing the sector, as demand for copters is expected to double in five years and the requirement is projected to be about 1,500-2,000 units by 2020.
“There are no public helipads currently. State-run airports across the country do not consider choppers for medical emergency as a feasible business yet,” Sridharan pointed out.
Directorate General for Civil Aviation (DGCA) Joint Director R.P. Sahi admitted that there was difficulty in demarcating separate area for use of helicopters.
“There are bottlenecks in regulating private choppers. There is a need for a coordinating agency to draft a national policy on air ambulance service,” Sahi said.
According to RWSI southern region head Unnikrishna Pillai, though a few corporate hospitals operate dedicated air ambulances for emergency purpose, the service has been the privilege of the elite class.
“As such costs are not covered by insurance agencies, there is need for such cover for all stakeholders,” Pillai observed.
Experts at the day-long conference favoured a public-private partnership (PPP) mode of funding to make air ambulance service free of cost.
“We have initiated a study on the safe usage of helicopters in India. A feasibility study is also being conducted to open up the state-run HAL airport in Bangalore and Begumpet airport in Hyderabad for such usage,” Yechury added.
The Indian hospital industry is keen on introducing the heli-ambulance services soon, as many precious lives can be saved and avert national loss of human resource.
“But at Rs.200,000 per trip, heli-ambulance service is cost prohibitive if hired privately and becomes affordable if hospitals and service operators join hands to provide such a life-saving mode,” said Pillai.
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