Service charge

Karachi’s struggle for adequate ambulance service

CARACHI:

Despite being one of the most densely populated urban metropolises in the country, until 2018 Karachi lacked a public sector ambulance service. During this period, various welfare organizations were left to fill the void, leaving the city’s more than 20 million residents entirely dependent on the private sector for emergency medical services.

Even as the city’s only hope at the time, most of these ambulances were not equipped with the required medical facilities, nor did they have a paramedic on board. Struggling to cover monumental ground and largely funded by donations, the most these charity ambulances could offer was a ride to the hospital at full speed.

However, it was not until 2009 that the port city hosted its first fully equipped ambulance service, at the request of a private company called the Aman Foundation. Unlike the charity ambulances, these vehicles were not high-roofed makeshift vans and came with basic survival equipment, trauma kits and access to paramedics on board. It couldn’t come for free.

Although these modern ambulances quickly made their way into the city despite their paid services, Karachi was still lacking and in desperate need of an alternative to the public sector. Unable to produce its own service, the Sindh government eventually struck a deal with the Aman Foundation to acquire their ambulance services for a hefty price. The acquisition took place in the winter of 2018, after which the residents of Karachi for the first time in a long time received free access to an adequate ambulance service.

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In accordance with the initial public-private agreement valid for a period of nine months, sixty of the Aman Foundation’s emergency medical services vehicles were tasked with transferring patients from their homes to hospitals. In a later phase, the vehicles were to be increased to a total of 200, to transport patients from home to hospital and from hospital to home free of charge. The second stage was to be rolled out in 2020, after which the service was also planned to expand the service to other districts in Sindh.

At that time, the Sindh government paid about Rs 35 million for Aman Foundation’s 60 life-saving ambulances for nine months, while the whole year was charged Rs 50 million to the government. After which, in 2021, Aman Health Services was finally renamed and the government established Sindh Rescue Medical Services in its place.

According to Abid Naveed, Executive Director of Sindh Medical and Rescue Services, given the current population of Karachi, the city needs a fleet of at least 220 ambulances to effectively provide emergency medical services in the city. port. By the same metric, all of Sindh would require more than 500 ambulances. “According to the World Health Organization, one ambulance represents a population of approximately 100,000 people. At present, Sindh medical and rescue services have a total of 85 ambulances. Sindh government health department will soon provide us with 250 more ambulances after which we will have 330 ambulances in total,” he told The Express Tribune.

Published in L’Express Tribune, May 12and2022.