Access to healthcare is a serious problem in rural India. In 2018, when Awanish Saran IAS became District Collector of Chhattisgarh's Kabirdham, he realized that basic healthcare facilities couldn't reach people in remote areas, especially Baiga and Gond tribal communities.
To address this, he launched "Sangi Express" initiative to provide essential healthcare services in remote areas through "bike ambulances".
Here's more on the initiative.
Four-wheeler ambulances couldn't reach or serve community on time: Saran
"Government four-wheeler ambulances couldn't reach or serve the community on time due to geographical constraints," Saran said while speaking to The Better India.
"Beneficiaries had to pay out of their own pockets and opt for private vehicles to seek health services. If they could not afford it, they would risk their lives, trying to reach the nearest health center," he said.
Kabirdham district administration launched bike ambulance initiative in July 2018
Saran took charge in Apr'18 and Kabirdham's district administration launched the bike ambulance initiative in Jul'18 in Kukdoor, Daldali, and Bokarkhar villages.
While a few issues were faced initially in implementing the initiative, after receiving positive feedback and good results, the same was launched in Jhalmala and Cheerpani in Nov'18.
Earlier in 2016, CRPF launched a similar bike ambulance system in Chhattisgarh's Maoist-affected Bastar.
The four main objectives of Sangi Express initiative
The initiative has four main objectives:
Decreasing maternal/infant/child mortalities by transporting those in need of treatment within the Golden Hour.
Providing accident victims and others suffering from trauma with Emergency Response Services (ERS) commutation facility.
Reducing villagers' migration to other districts/states for healthcare.
Strengthening antenatal/intranatal/postnatal care to pregnant women and infants under Janani Suraksha Yojana, acting as a bridge for primary care to everyone.
Areas surrounded by hills suffered from lack of healthcare access
Saran said many areas in Kabirdham surrounded by hills have suffered from the lack of access to basic healthcare.
He added there was also a shortfall in staff at primary/community health centers and lack of specialist doctors at district hospital.
After addressing the staff issue, the district administration joined hands with Anganwadi and ASHA workers and Gram Panchayats to spread awareness about Sangi Express.
How does the bike ambulance initiative work?
Under the initiative, every village is allotted a specific phone-number that is distributed to every household.
To avail the free services, a person (beneficiary) has to contact the concerned PHC/CHC/bike-ambulance driver through Anganwadi/ASHA worker on the number.
Every village has a bike ambulance, with first-aid supplies and helmets, in which the beneficiary, attendant, ASHA worker are transported to and from the nearest health center.
This initiative has given employment opportunities to locals: Saran
"Besides offering immediate care, this initiative has given employment opportunities to locals. Drivers of this ambulance service are from the respective villages," Saran said.
"An advantage of a local boy on the wheel is that they are familiar with the geography, and can find the fastest or shortest route to arrive at a government health facility," the District Collector added.
Empowered women to understand concept of 'Right to Health': Saran
According to the Kabirdham District Magistrate, the bike ambulances have reduced the "out of pocket" expenditure by 90%.
"The successful implementation of Sangi Express has not just resulted in incremental health improvements but also helped and empowered women to understand the concept of 'Right to Health'. It has boosted their confidence to seek health facility with ease," Saran said.