MSRDC's 15-year promise of trauma centre on E-way turns out to be empty
Maharashtra State agency says trauma centre on E-way will be running 'soon'; bids were floated in January, but nothing has moved forward as yet
Even 17 years after the Mumbai-Pune Expressway was opened to the public, the 94.5 km stretch, that sees hundreds of accidents every year, does not have a single trauma centre. And, for the past 15 years, officials from Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) have been promising that the much-needed trauma unit will be operational 'soon'. Finally, three years ago, it constructed one at Ozarde, near Talegaon toll plaza. In January, MSRDC floated bids for someone to run the centre, but eight months later, nothing has moved. The Siddhivinayak Temple Trust, too, that has committed to sponsoring Rs 1.23 crore worth of equipment for the centre, is still waiting for government's go-ahead.
Statistics provided by officials reveaal that in 2017, of the 360 accidents reported, 105 motorists died, whereas 147 suffered serious injuries and 44 sustained minor injuries. A few days ago, State Transport Minister Diwakar Raote had called for a high-level meeting of MSRDC, state transport officials, senior PWD members and Highway Police at the Sahyadri guesthouse. Senior MSRDC officials clarified that they would indeed make the trauma care unit operational soon. They also assured that they were working out modalities along with the state public health department to ensure that the centre had the required qualified experts.
However, Raote did not seem impressed by the assurances as he was keen that the trauma centre be up and running at the earliest. While the government claimed that the 108 ambulance is available for ferrying injured passengers currently, Western India Automobile Association Chairman Nitin Dossa said not a single ambulance can be seen parked anywhere on the expressway. Dossa, who was also present at the meeting, raised the issue about two missing ambulances that WIAA had provided for the Expressway. While the authorities had no answer to the question, they promptly pointed out that accident victims will be taken to the nearest hospitals by the 108 state-run ambulance service.
Dossa told mid-day, "Soon after the expressway was opened to vehicular traffic, we had deployed two ambulances that were equipped to even conduct minor surgeries, and trained doctors deployed round-the-clock at Khalapur. But, instead of cooperating with us, the authorities put a lot of pressure on our staff, forcing them to leave abruptly. One day, we learnt that our ambulances, too, had vanished from the spot they were parked at. Till date no one knows what happened to them."
Dossa is also sceptical about the 108 ambulance service. "The ambulances are not parked on the entire stretch of the expressway, so in case of an accident, and when there is a lot of traffic on both sides, how will this ambulance reach the spot of the accident and transport the injured within the golden hour?" A senior office bearer of the Siddhivinayak Temple Trust told mid-day, "We have already got our budget approval for R1.23 crore but we have not received any intimation from the state government or MSRDC for the equipment."
Worth of equipment Siddhivinayak Trust has committed to sponsoring
A high-level meeting is slated for today, between stakeholders and Savelife Foundation, an NGO working closely with Centre and the state to improve road safety and emergency medical care across India. Piyush Tewari, NGO founder, said, "We recently signed a MOU with the State Public Health department to work on modalities to make the trauma centre workable. The centre is a crucial step, but that alone cannot save lives.
We have also tied up with the 108 ambulance service and MGM Hospital in Navi Mumbai. A US-based hospital is helping us put this model in place. Also, nine other care centres have been shortlisted to provide the required aid, and these will work as a chain of survival and interlinked processes right from receiving the call about the accident, mobilisation, to providing medical care and shifting to higher medical centres. The meeting on Wednesday will discuss how to make the expressway a zero-fatality stretch.
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