The increasing number of prank calls and non-emergency calls for ambulances coming in every day at the Maharashtra Emergency Medical Services (MEMS) control room has now prompted authorities to decide to report such frequent callers to the police in future. In the city alone, of the 4,624 calls received at the control room, over 50 per cent calls (2,492) were for non-emergency purposes.
In the state, since the launch of the service in January till May 26, as many as 8.14 lakh calls have been made to the ‘108’ service, of which only 25,550 (3 per cent) were cases of medical emergencies and were served accordingly. In the city, 2,156 calls were for medical emergencies.
The 108 toll-free service launched under Bharat Vikas Group (BVG) India Limited – has so far rolled out 632 ambulances in the state, of which 70 are in Mumbai. The service aims to help save lives during the ‘golden hour’ period after a victim has met with an accident or requires medical emergency. Close to two lakh calls in the state were hoax.
BVG official Dr Amol Pandit said several callers expect the services for routine check-ups, dialysis, scheduled appointments and transfer from one hospital to another private hospital. “Since the launch, people expect that even for small medical issues they can hail the 108 service. While we transfer a patient from one public hospital to another, we turn down requests coming in for transfer to a private hospital. If they can afford private hospital fee, they can surely bear the ambulance fare,” Pandit said.
An operator at the control room said a majority of calls received in a day were for sundry purposes. “If we receive a call for normal check-ups, we consult our supervisor and then respond accordingly. We ask the callers to provide their name, gender and the nature of the ailment,” the operator said.
Dr Swapnil Chougule, attached with the MEMS, said, “We are now planning to report callers to the police if their prank call frequency increases.”
Nyaneshwar Shelke, chief operating officer of MEMS, said, “We have laid down certain requirements for sending an ambulance. It is strictly meant for emergency cases and we have to inform several patients that the free service is not meant for appointment or dialysis.”
MEMS has also received 403 calls from people across the state, who called specially to appreciate the service. From Mumbai, only one such call has been made.
A total of 937 ambulances will be rolled out under this scheme, of which 140 will be allocated to Mumbai. Officials said within a few months, the entire fleet will be on road.