With close to 50 per cent of the 108 Emergency Management and Research Institute (EMRI) ambulances not in operational condition and a 25 per cent shortage of para-medics, the emergency services run by the state government with GVK in public-private partnership (PPP) mode has been severely affected. The EMRI Goa head admits the 108 ambulances, which used to reach within minutes, have been taking much longer, increasing risks to life of patients needing critical help. While they have enough drivers, they have fewer qualified medical technicians and that affects smooth operations. The service provider and the government must work together to ensure that the vacancies were immediately filled up so that the pre-hospital emergency medical service could be run smoothly. It would be in the interest of all that the services were streamlined and any casualty prevented by timely action by the authorities.
Goa was the first state to start emergency ambulance services way back in 2008 and hundreds of lives have been saved since then by the ambulances, which could reach the people in need of medical help in time. The services were lauded by one and all but lack of adequate monitoring by the government and short-sighted cost cutting measures adopted by the management has led to services taking a hit. Though the government has promised adequate number of ambulances, the vehicles by themselves would not be enough to run the services and there is need to ensure that trained paramedics were recruited to ensure quality medical help. Not many Goans want to join EMRI services citing low pay and poor service conditions as factors. That there are only 59 emergency medical technicians available for deployment speaks volumes that the service provider and the government have failed to instill confidence among Goans to join the services being offered under PPP mode. There have been allegations that people from outside the state with no formal training into medical assistance having been hired as part of cost cutting drive and locals were not being recruited, allegations that must be inquired into.
Since the 108 ambulance service received good response from public after it was launched with many Goans coming forward to join the organisation, it was necessary for the state authorities to keep the jobs attractive by addressing the grievances of the staff. The state government has not taken up the issues affecting the emergency service on priority. The delay in decision making perhaps made the staff recruited from within the state feel that they were “unwanted” with some of them leaving on their own and others getting “retrenched”. Since it is difficult to get trained manpower in the state, especially at short notice, efforts of the authorities should have been to ensure continuity of the staff but for reasons unknown this did not happen. The employees of the EMRI services have gone on strike on several occasions and their demands have not been met by the authorities. As disputes lingered, it sent out negative messages about a service that was lauded by Goans in general. For reasons of good service, working for the 108 EMRI service was seen to be respectable. However, the state government and GVK did not keep this factor in mind when looking at the issues.
The 108 EMRI service in the state with state-of-the-art ambulances, fully equipped to handle emergencies, was the first of its kind in the country, and a very good PPP model, whose success could have been emulated in various other fields. But with their slothful and indifferent approach, the state authorities have allowed decay to set in the service which could lead to failure of the PPP model in the state, unless corrective steps were taken forthwith. It is well known that a large number of people are unemployed in the state and looking for jobs, the government should have ensured the success of this model which could have prompted unemployed locals to take up employment in similar models and lessened the burden on the government to provide jobs in the government sector. As today’s youth look for well-paid jobs with fair job conditions, the authorities should ensure that the staff of EMRI service was given their due so as to retain the trained manpower. More deployment in such an arrangement would lessen the burden on the government. Besides, a good emergency response system is vital for saving lives. The government should start paramedic skilling and recruitment on an emergency basis.