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Authorities mulling over keeping foldable stretchers in Mumbai locals

A Bombay High Court-appointed accident committee conducted a trial run by keeping a stretcher inside the motorman’s cabin in a train, to see if it could help transport accident victims faster to hospitals

In a bid to improve the probability of survival of railway mishap victims, the authorities, including a High Court-appointed Committee that oversees railway accidents, is looking at keeping foldable stretchers inside local trains. Presently, there is no provision for stretchers inside locals.

Authorities found that the space inside the motorman’s cabin is too less to keep the stretcher, and that special arrangements would have to be made to store it there. Representational pic
Authorities found that the space inside the motorman’s cabin is too less to keep the stretcher, and that special arrangements would have to be made to store it there. Representational pic

In a meeting that took place on May 27, the committee members discussed the idea of having this stretcher inside the motorman’s cabin. “We also conducted a trial, keeping this foldable stretcher inside the motorman’s cabin of a Siemens train,” said Bhavesh Patel, a member of the committee. The idea behind keeping the stretchers handy is to ensure that the victim receives medical help faster.

Sources said that there were issues with keeping stretchers inside cabins due to lack of space. Officials feel that the space inside the cabin is too narrow, and so, a proper arrangement needs to be made if the plan is implemented. Currently, the authorities are studying the feasibility of using this under various circumstances.

A railway official said, “There is also the issue of safety — we will have to ensure the stretcher isn’t stolen from the compartment.” Each piece costs around R5000. If the stretcher gets approval from the railway ministry, more than 290 rakes would be equipped with them.

Quicker medical help?
Normally, when a commuter is found lying on the tracks after being hit by a train or falling off one, or due to some other mishap, there is delay in getting immediate help.

A railway official said that normally, they call up the stationmaster’s office closest to the accident spot. Then, porters are sent to pick up the victim, who is mostly carried manually. At times, when a stretcher is available, it is employed. “If a stretcher is immediately available inside the train, the victim can be carried to the next station without losing time,” said Subhash Gupta, a rail activist.

Waste of money
On the other hand, people involved in treating rail accident victims claim that having a foldable stretcher in every train is a waste of money.

“Train services would be delayed if a motorman is asked to get down from his cabin and take someone’s help to cater to the accident victim. Moreover, the foldable stretcher doesn’t allow proper transportation of victim from the spot to the station,” argued Dr Rita Savla, founder of Radhee Disaster and Education Foundation, a non-profit organisation that works towards disaster management.

At present, due to inadequate medical care, ambulances are being pressed into service and, sometimes, kept outside station premises. Even private hospitals are being roped in to accommodate railway accident victims. Around five private hospitals on both central and western lines have agreed.

With no stretcher, Teen bled to death
On March 20 this year, a CST-bound Kasara local derailed, killing one 18-year-old Dhaval Lodaya and injuring 12.

His friends had alleged that due to the absence of a stretcher, they couldn’t rush their friend to a hospital, and so he bled for more than half an hour on the tracks.

Lodaya was the only one who died in the accident, and his family and friends protested at CST and Ghatkopar stations a week after the accident, demanding justice from the authorities, apart from corrective action to ensure such incidents do not occur again.

Rs 5,000
Approximate cost of each foldable stretcher

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