A wailing siren, a cry for life

October 09,2017

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A speeding ambulance with its wailing siren and flashing xenon strobe light is a telltale sign that someone needing immediate medical attention is being ferried to a medical facility.

The patient might be a woman in child birth, or an accident victim bleeding heavily, or a heart patient dropping his heart beats with every passing second.With beads of sweat streaking down their faces, the attendants fasten their eyes onto the patient and find their heartbeat sinking and bodies draining of energy and mobility with every passing second due to the fear of losing their loved anytime.

The driver occasionally looks over his shoulders to size up the situation and with every look he steps on the gas to reach the nearest possible medical facility before the patient loses his/her battle for life.If this scene occurs in some developed country of the world, the safe bet is that the patient will reach the desired destination, facing no hurdle, obstruction or hindrance on the road.

On the contrary, if this situation occurs in Pakistan, especially in a densely populated area like Karachi, the patient’s chances of survival get dim, as the disorderly traffic on roads, absence of traffic coppers on major roads and highways, inexpert handling of traffic by the police due to out-of-order traffic filters, and to top it all the clinical indifference of public, especially of habitually unruly, uneducated and thick-skinned public transport drivers, to the wailing of siren defies all this struggle to save a human life who may be the only breadwinner of a family.

In some cases, ambulance drivers have been roughed up by the public transport drivers and the general public for the honking and drone of siren without thinking a fig about the plight the patient is in.

In most cases, the ambulances are caught up in never ending tailbacks and no amount of honking and siren-wailing could move the traffic police to hearken it and immediately clear the lane where the ambulance stands jammed in its track.It is a common occurrence that traffic cops don’t even bat an eyelid during such situations who in other words should spring into action and clear way for the ambulance.

Another sad aspect of this situation is that sometimes even educated and visibly sensible people driving in the fast lane hog the road and the constant honking and wailing of siren falls off like water off a duck’s back.

In such situations, the patient dies, leaving none other but the family in huge grief.Keeping this environment of indifference to the plight of fellow citizens and promote the right of way and respect for ambulances, the International Committee of Red Cross [ICRC] in collaboration with Pakistan Red Crescent Society (PRCS) launched a campaign titled “Ambulance ko Rasta dein, is may aap ka koi apna ho sakta hay” in partnership with Jinnah Sindh Medical University, Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre, Edhi Foundation and Aman Foundation.

The campaign was successfully carried out, receiving an overwhelming response from the general public. The campaign’s impact, measured through an observational study, stood at a promising 17%.

Encouraged by the response, the ICRC together with its partners will launch a three-month national campaign titled PehlayZindagi under the slogan ‘Give Way to Ambulance, Give Way to Life’.

The campaign will run from October to December this year. The mobilization of grassroots civil society networks and the resources of ICRC and its partners in the country will allow combining the campaign with mass scale direct community outreach.

Rescue 1122, Aman Foundation, Edhi Foundation, Pakistan Red Crescent Society, The Indus Hospital, Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre, Jinnah Sindh Medical University, Khyber Medical University, Isra university, University of Health Sciences, Pakistan State Oil, traffic police and the city administrations of Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar, twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi and civil society partners are contributing resources and assets to the campaign in order to highlight the humanitarian message.

Keeping pace with the ICRC in its endeavor to save human lives by educating the general public about their rights over the fellow citizens, the Pakistan Red Crescent Society [PRCS] has established the country’s first ever National Ambulance Services College at the National Headquarters, Islamabad.

The first convocation was held in September in which a total of 36 Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) were given diplomas.

The college is affiliated with the National Ambulance Service College, Dublin, Ireland. The highly-trained EMTs will care for the sick or injured in emergency medical settings.

In emergency or life-threatening situations, people’s life often depends on quick reaction and competent care which is provided by the EMTs.

In most cases, they are the first medical responders to emergency situations. The EMTs respond to emergency calls, performing medical services and transporting patients to medical facilities.

Their most important responsibility is to transport the patient to a medical facility in a safe and secure environment.


* The government should introduce a chapter, designed by experts, with pictorial relief, in the syllabus from class VI to intermediate in order to raise a generation that respects the others rights unto them and feels the pain and agony that some fellow citizen is going through.

* Quranic verses and Hadiths emphasizing respect for the rights of fellow citizens must be introduced in the syllabus

* Roads need to be widened and made signal-free to ensure unhindered and unrestricted movement of ambulance and speedy transport of the patient to the nearest medical facility

* The traffic police departments should not only organize camps to sensitize masses to the importance of ambulance, but also train and educate the public transport drivers about the fellow citizens rights towards them

* TV channels and FM radios should beam messages about the importance of ambulance every now and then

* All emergency care services should be in constant contact with each other through a wireless service and as soon as a road accident or an emergency situation occurs, the first responders should beam a message to the traffic police department about the place of occurrence so that cops on duty clear the road for unhindered movement of the patient.

I hope these humble recommendations will contribute a lot towards saving human lives during emergency situations which we lose due to our unintended indifference to the plight of fellow citizens.

The government should institute an authority on the pattern of Nadra, Ogra, Nepra etc to register ambulance services for an effective and coordinated response during emergency situations of smaller or greater magnitude.

The writer is Principal Information Officer at the Pakistan Red Crescent Society, Islamabad.


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