Don't get injured, or fall ill at any railway station in Mumbai

mid-day tested stations on Western, Central Main and the Harbour lines to see how equipped they are to deal with medical emergencies. The result? No staffers at these stations are trained to use available medical emergency kits

Watch your step while at any suburban railway station. In case you get injured or fall sick there, the stations are ill equipped to give you any medical aid.

According to the stationmaster at Kurla, 3-4 accidents a day are the norm. Yet, staff can only use 11 items from the first-aid kit. File pic
According to the stationmaster at Kurla, 3-4 accidents a day are the norm. Yet, staff can only use 11 items from the first-aid kit. File pic

An inspection conducted by mid-day has revealed that railway stations on Western, Central Main and Harbour lines are shockingly under-prepared to deal with medical emergencies, despite having the medical equipment to do so. Staffers at stations do not know how to operate a majority of the medical apparatus.

The High Court had, in 1999, directed railway stations to stock 70 items for emergency medical assistance, 28 of which comprise a basic medical first-aid kit. Station staffers, however, can boast of knowing how to use 11 of these first-aid items.

Railway staffers confirmed they have received no training in handling the remaining 59 items and they have no choice but to wait for doctors of the Maharashtra Emergency Medical Services (MEMS), known as the ‘108’ ambulances which are supposed to be stationed outside railway stations.

The first-aid kit is divided into two types, according to the kinds of cases encountered – medical (fever, dizziness, abdominal pain, chest pain, etc) and trauma (falls from heights, train accidents, labour pain, food poisoning, etc). The basic first-aid kit contains 28 items like aluminium stretchers, bandages, dressing tapes, creams, antiseptics and others (see box).

mid-day checked the preparedness of emergency medical services and first-aid boxes at Dahisar and Kandivli on the Western line, Sion and Kurla on the Central line, and Sewri and Dockyard Road on the Harbour line. The results were very worrying.

28 essentials
As per HC guidelines, these are the 28 items necessary in the basic medical kit taken to a site of a railway accident
>> Folding aluminium stretcher
>> Triangular bandage
>> Wooden extensible splints (set of 6 of St John Ambulance size)
>> Safety pins on a card or in a box
>> Scissors
>> Gloves
>> Torch
>> First-aid card for record keeping
>> First-aid box (50× 32 × 15 cm)
>> Sterile adhesive strip dressing (1.9 × 7.2)
>> Sterile absorbent gauze pad (7.5 × 7.5)
>> Sterile absorbent cotton wool (20 mg)
>> Roller Bandage (7.5 cm × 4 metres)
>> Adhesive plaster
>> Antiseptic cream 25 mg
>> Povidone iodine ointment
>> Antiseptic lotion (Povidone iodine 100 ml)
>> Antiseptic spray dressing
>> Soframycin skin ointment
>> Oral rehydration powder
>> Resuscitator air bag (Air-viva type)
>> Airway tubes (Medium and small size) (adult and paed.)
>> Suction hand pump
>> Paracetamol tablet
>> Artery Forceps 6 inch × 4 inch
>> Blood pressure apparatus (sphygmomanometer)
>> Stethoscope
>> Chloramphenicol eye application (In plastic containers)

Western line
Staff members use only 11 of the 28 items; these include roller bandages, antiseptic creams, cotton wool, wooden splints, rubber tourniquet etc. The remaining items (17 from the basic kit and 42 from the list) are kept in separate boxes that are supposed to be opened only by doctors.

The 11-tem first-aid kit at Dahisar station
The 11-tem first-aid kit at Dahisar station

The stationmaster at Dahisar, S A Nainar, claimed patients are immediately rushed to hospitals in case of an emergency. When asked why a basic antiseptic like iodine is missing, he said, “The items available are enough for primary medication. We only try to stop the bleeding. The 108 doctors take care of the matter later.”

Railwayspeak
Sharat Chandrayan, Chief PRO, WR, believes stations are equipped to handle medical emergencies. “The basic first-aid kit has every required item.” When informed that items are missing from the kit, he added, “If specific items are missing, we will have to check. But, according to me, there is no irregularity in the kit.”

Central main and Harbour lines
CR officials depend on doctors to treat the injured or the sick. The stationmaster at Sion admitted that in absence of MEMS ambulances, victims wait for 15-20 minutes for an ambulance to arrive and a paramedic to start basic treatment.

The first-aid kit at Sewri station
The first-aid kit at Sewri station

At Kurla, where the stationmaster, M M Gupta, confessed that “3-4 accidents a day is a norm”, staffers can use only a handful of items from the first-aid box.

The Harbour line seems to be the worst off. An employee from the station in-charge’s office at Sewri said MEMS services aren’t functioning from Wadala to CST. He added the first-aid kit has few items, and the staff doesn’t know how to render primary medication.

Railway speak
A K Singh, PRO, CR, denied that the support staff at stations make use of limited items from the first- aid kit. “Our staff is completely trained to handle any emergency at stations. They are instrumental in containing the damage in case of accidents,” Singh claimed.

Expert speak
Dr Rita Savla, founder-director, RADHEE Disaster and Education Foundation, a non-profit organisation which works to help disaster victims, concurred with the situation at large that railway stations lack updated medical care facility to offer prompt treatment.

“We really need to upgrade our stock. The aluminium stretchers have no belts. Hence, the accident victim falls off many a time and sustains more injuries. We had recommended to the High Court to add a few necessities like cervical collar and scoop stretchers to the list, in order to provide better medical care.

Even a basic necessity like ice is missing from the first-aid boxes,” said Savla. Radhee has filed a PIL in the High Court with an appended updated list of necessary items for emergencies. The case is yet to be given a hearing date.

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