Over 30 kilometres from Bengaluru, Anekal, a small town, recorded a Covid-19 fatality rate of over 4 per cent when the pandemic was at its peak in the area. This prompted the local administration in the taluk to conduct a death audit which indicated that most patients faced difficulties in reaching medical facilities on time.
In a bid to bridge transportation-related issues for hundreds of people in the locality, a bike ambulance facility has been rolled out. According to officials, the customised Royal Enfield bike with a bed and a built-in oxygen cylinder is expected to be a life-saver for many.
Speaking to Indianexpress.com, Dr Vaishnavi K, Officer on Special Duty and nodal officer for Covid-19 operations in Anekal taluk said the team picked providing last-mile connectivity to those seeking treatment at hospitals as their priority to streamline operations. “We picked Choodahalli to pioneer the bike-ambulance initiative for it being the most remote village in the taluk, which also happens to fall in an elephant corridor within the Bannerghatta forest area,” she said.
As per the taluk administration, at least 400 people reside in the village and include a majority of daily-wagers who travel to the Anekal taluk headquarters. The secluded area makes it difficult for many to reach the closest primary healthcare centre (PHC). The narrow four-kilometre-long roads which are not asphalted makes it difficult to be accessed by ambulances as well.
“This is why we thought of a bike-ambulance after several sessions of brainstorming with government officers, non-profit volunteers, and localites in the area,” Dr Vaishnavi adds claiming the initiative to be the first-of-its-kind in South India.
Conceptualised in a span of two months by volunteers of NGOs Manta4Change and Suriya Foundation, the initiative was financed by Zerodha, a financial services company as part of its corporate social responsibility (CSR). The prototype was rolled out at the cost of Rs 1.5 lakh. Volunteers cited an online video of a similar initiative carried out in the hilly regions of north India as part of a UNICEF (United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund) initiative as a reference towards modifying the motorbike.
“This bike can resist over 120 kilograms weight apart from the rider with an oxygen cylinder which can be administered to the patient during the commute. The extra shock-absorbers embedded to the bike ensure that the ride isn’t bumpy even while wading through hilly regions and uneven surfaces,” Puneeth T, a social activist associated with Suriya Foundation highlighted.
With more support pouring in from NGOs and other voluntary organisations, Anekal taluk is the first in and around Bengaluru to have a dedicated hospital wing for Covid-19 treatment as well. “Doctors are available around the clock to attend all cases. Medical practitioners from Doctors For You, a subsidiary of Azim Premji Foundation is also an integral part of our team which includes ASHA workers, government teachers, anganwadi workers, and auxiliary nurse midwives(ANMs) among others who operate as our footsoldiers to combat the pandemic,” an official from the Bommanahalli Covid-19 Command Centre which oversees the operations in Anekal said.
With 13 fully-equipped PHCs and around 400 footsoldiers working to minimise the effect of the pandemic in the taluk, the team in Anekal is hopeful of becoming a model to others in implementing Covid care facilities to others. “Our team aims to amplify efficiency at work with the available resources and more such initiatives will be rolled out in the coming days as we prepare for the coming days to fight the pandemic and beyond.” Dr Vaishnavi says.
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