The Kerala Government has launched an air ambulance service. The Chief Minister Oommen Chandy formally inaugurated this first-of-its-kind initiative on 3 March 2016. The government will bear the expenses for this service and has earmarked five crore for the same. Chandy said that his government planned to focus on elevating the health sector by improving the facilities and making technology available to the common man. Chandy had announced last year that the state government will set up its own air ambulance after a heart was transported from Thiruvananthapuram to Kochi on his intervention.
An MoU has been signed where government-run Rajiv Gandhi Academy for Aviation Technology and Kerala Network for Organ Sharing (“Mrithasanjivini”) will work in collaboration. The service will have the following features:
- A brand new six-seater ambulance will be provided by the Rajiv Gandhi Academy for Aviation Technology, Thiruvananthapuram.
- The Air Ambulance service will operate in two months time once the aircraft is ready for use.
- The service will concentrate on organ transplants which require utmost speed for the organ to be viable. The aircraft will be used to transfer and transport organs from brain dead patients to the patients in need.
- The ambulance will also cater to patients who have urgent medical requirements.
- Noble Gracious, the nodal officer of the humanitarian programme, said “All the private and state run hospitals will be linked in this programme.”
The Shroud of Controversy
Even before the air ambulance service has begun as per plan in Kerala, it seems to be shrouded in controversy. The controversy is in regards to the decision of the government to appoint Rajiv Gandhi Academy for Aviation Technology (RGAAT) for the Air-Ambulance service.
- RGAAT did not feature in any of the initial talks over the appointment of air ambulance service which was conducted with companies from Mumbai, Bangalore, Delhi etc.
- The four companies that submitted the Expression of Interest (EoI) include Flying Birds Aviation, Pawan Hans Ltd, Kochi-based Medi Air Ambulance Services and International Critical Care Air Transfer Team from Bangalore.
- The industry players are alleging that while the four companies went through the entire rigmarole and have been conducting talks for the past two years, RGAAT was appointed without even the mandatory tender process.
- RGAAT is involved in training commercial pilots. It does not have the license for commercial operations.
- RGAAT also does not qualify for the Air Ambulance service as it operates small twin engine four-passenger seating aircrafts which is basically used for training purposes.
- The Piston Engine powering the aircraft is fuelled by 100LL which are not easily available in airports. This will result in delays which are not feasible for organ transport.
- While the Air Ambulance service has been formally launched, it will take minimum 2-3 months to get all required permission from DGCA and the Civil Aviation ministry to use this aircraft for commercial purposes.
- The general consensus amongst the major players in the industry is that the entire project is a dummy project to garner votes as elections are around the corner.
There is no doubt about the fact that the project of Air Ambulance facility will benefit the common man and save many lives. However, the service has to be conducted with due diligence for optimum results.