The initiative was rolled out earlier this year in East Delhi by Chief Minister Arvind Kejiriwal and Health Minister Satyender Jain. Under the scheme, first responder vehicles (FRVs) equipped with medical equipment such as first aid kits and oxygen cylinders are manned by ambulance assistance officers (AAOs).
The scheme sought to address ambulance waiting times in the capital, which are complicated by congestion. The FRVs are able to reach areas difficult for large vehicles to access and can provide immediate medical attention to those in need.
According to the Delhi government, the scheme has been a success in East Delhi: they claim 700 lives have been saved by the initiative and that Delhiites have been “overwhelmingly positive” in their feedback. With this in mind, ambulances on bikes will be rolled out capital-wide according to Kejiriwal. “A plan is underway to expand this service to entire Delhi,” he said, adding that “I am happy that patients living in narrow bylanes of Delhi are also getting health facilities through bike ambulances.”
“The service has received an overwhelmingly positive response from the residents of Delhi,” said the Delhi government in a statement. “It is targeted to give last-mile connectivity to emergency healthcare services to people who live in congested areas, where ambulances could not enter in the past.”
“A large number of people in Delhi live in unauthorised colonies or other such areas where streets are very narrow,” Kejiriwal added. “I was very concerned about how to provide better emergency healthcare to the people living in these colonies. With this in mind, the Bike Ambulance service was launched.”
The scheme did face some controversy, with allegations that AAOs staffing the ambulances on bikes lack the requisite training to deliver medical care. This was disputed by Centralised Accident and Trauma Services (CATS) head L. R. Garg, who asserted “all the personnel riding the bike ambulances have been given a nine-month in-house training, covering all basic first aid techniques, including providing CPR and oxygen therapy. They received training in riding bikes and communicating with patients and relatives. Their role is the same as what they were doing in normal ambulances.”
If the results claimed by the Delhi government are true, then the scheme certainly has potential and value for the national capital at large. With many Indian cities also facing issues such as ambulance waiting times and congestion, the ambulances on bikes model could also be replicated in those areas for the betterment of public health.
“This project is saving many lives,” Kejriwal said. “Bike ambulances can easily go to those congested areas where big ambulances can’t. Every single life is [important] for us.”