Emergency Medical Service (EMS)

Emergency Medical Service (EMS) systems, in Karnataka, are managed by government ambulance services, volunteer ambulance services, private ambulance services, etc. EMS aims to bring patients in for treatment within an hour of the medical emergency.

Emergency Medical Service (EMS) provides critical medical care, transfers patients to definitive care, and also offers medical transport. Medical transportation is offered in cases where patients affected with certain illnesses or injuries are unable to transport themselves to the nearest medical centre. EMS is sometimes, also referred to as paramedic service, ambulance service or first-aid squad.

An EMS system comprises of emergency medical care and coordinated response. It involves multiple agencies and people. An effective EMS system is well-equipped to handle any kind of emergency and is composed of the below:

  • Transportation and communication network
  • Trauma centers, specialty care centers, and hospitals
  • Private and public agencies and organisations
  • Highly-trained professionals including doctors
  • Rehabilitation services

EMS in India is evolving rapidly and becoming an integral component of the healthcare system. The focus of the EMS has also gradually changed from just being injury centric to providing medical care for all kinds of emergencies. There are 2 kinds of emergency medical services in India - helpline number 108 and helpline number 102. Both these ambulance services are funded by the Government of India and collectively own more than 17,000 ambulances across the country. The first EMS system in India was established in Mumbai in 1985 where 15 ambulances were linked to a centralised wireless dispatch centre and were managed by the Association for Trauma Care of India. Later on, EMS systems were initiated in Delhi, Chennai, Hyderabad, and Pune.

EMS in Karnataka:

In Karnataka, EMS systems are managed collectively by state-run ambulance services, volunteer ambulance services, fire or police-linked services, private ambulance services, hospital-based services, combined emergency services, and company ambulances. The State Health Transport Organization is responsible for supporting vehicle maintenance. During 2014-15, the Health and Family Welfare Ministry of the state boasted a fleet strength of 1,762 out of which 190 vehicles were handled by the Zila Panchayat.

The government of Karnataka has developed a unique strategy for pre-hospital trauma care revolving around the Golden Hour Theory. According to the Golden Theory, a victim’s chance of survival stands best in an operation theatre and hence, the target of the EMS is to bring the patient for treatment within 1 hour of the medical emergency. At the moment, the Golden Hour Theory has been scaled up to ‘Scoop and Run’ where the patient will be transported to the nearest trauma centre within 10 minutes of the traumatic event.

The availability of ambulance services in Karnataka has been given below:

Services Fleet Strength Operational Details
EMS-108 715 PPP Model with Karnataka government and GVK EMRI
State-owned ambulances 577 Owned and operated by the state government
Drop Back facility 200 Funded by National Rural Health Mission

The EMS-108 scheme operates through the common number ‘108’ and is specialised in handling emergency medical care. All the vehicles handling the EMS-108 are equipped with the Advanced Vehicle Tracking System (AVLTS) and have drivers 24/7. Customers can call the number 108 to access the services of the EMS-108 scheme that has a dedicated call center to receive emergency calls. The state-owned ambulances available for emergency medical care are stationed at district hospitals, CHCs, and taluk hospitals.

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