Autorickshaw Ambulances lead the way across India to ferry Covid-19 patients to hospitals

By S. Ravi
New Delhi, May 17:
The humble public transport vehicle, autorickshaws, are now expanding their role as ambulances, equipped to provide emergency help to patients suffering from the second wave of Covid-19.
As reported by India Narrative earlier, confronted with the shortage of ambulances, the Delhi government authorities, thinking out of the box, turned some of the Capital’s ubiquitous three-wheelers into makeshift ambulances to ferry Covid-19 patients.
The authorities in association with a non-profit organization launched on May 4, more than a dozen autorickshaws equipped with hand sanitizers, face masks, and the much-in-demand oxygen cylinders. The usage of auto-ambulance services was also free of charge.
Not just in the Capital but in several other parts of the country too, autos are now being actively used as ambulances. Some not-so-famous NGOs have played a sterling role in adding another layer of impromptu ambulance services in the country.
Rescuing patients in Chennai
With the citizens struggling for hospitals and oxygen for Covid-19 patients, an NGO based in the Chennai, the Kadamai Educational and Social Welfare Trust is running autorickshaw ambulance service referred to as “emergency ambulances” in north Chennai.
Sathyaraj, the Treasurer of the Trust, speaking to, said they are working 24×7 for several days due to the surge in the number of cases in the city.
“Patients are made to wait even for five hours to get an oxygen bed. We witnessed how they were suffering while they were waiting to get admitted so we came up with the idea of fitting oxygen cylinders in our autos. We obtained the cylinders from an industrial unit weighing 48-51 kg capacity and fitted them into two autos. Only I and our Trust Secretary Vasantha Kumar initially operated these autos. We used to take trips in alternatives as we wear PPE Kits and it was very difficult to ride the autos wearing those,” said Sathyaraj.
With the autos proving useful, more people started asking for them.
Sharing details, Sathyaraj said: “Due to the increase in the number of requests, we started to engage our other volunteers as well. A total of 15 members are now involved in running this initiative, right from attending the calls, updating the backend information, driving the autos, etc. We have three autos for doing social welfare activities and two of them are now predominantly used for helping Covid-19 patients.”
Refusing to take money for this selfless service, the Trust is receiving donations. “Few people after getting to know about services through social media have come forward to donate to our trust. That will be useful for us to buy our safety equipment like PPE and others as we don’t compromise on that.”
Pune takes a lead
With the collaboration of the two associations, Pune has been greatly benefitted during the Covid-19 pandemic. These are Maharashtra Rickshaw Panchayat (MRP), and Pune Feed the Need and Arogya Sena, who together have made available 40 autorickshaws equipped with portable oxygen cylinders to take Covid-19 patients to hospitals free of cost.
Speaking to the media, Shafique Ibrahim Patel, president of MRP said: “We have 102 drivers who work in shifts. We offer free service to Covid-19 patients who need to go to the hospital. The service is available in various parts of Pune, including Peth areas, Kondhwa, Wadgaonsheri, Vishrantwadi, Baner, Wagholi, Pashan, Katraj, among others.”
With the funds for this project being raised by the Panchayat, the NGOs came forward to donate portable oxygen cylinders, sanitisation equipment, cleaning agents, and personal protection equipment (PPE) kits for drivers.
Elaborating on their operation, MRP’s Vice-President, Arshad Ansari said: “After every ride, the vehicles are completely sanitised. In each vehicle, there is a partition dividing the driver space from the passenger area. The drivers also give patients access to oxygen cylinders when required while on way to the hospital. In case a patient fails to get a bed at one hospital, s/he can use the same vehicle to reach another hospital, and so on, till s/he finds a bed. The services are available for 24 hours free of charge.”
For availing the free auto ambulance services for Covid-19 patients, one may call 9850494189 or 7841000598.
Thane’s effort to help Coronavirus patients
Faced with persistent ambulance shortage, and overcharging by drivers, people of Ambernath in Thane along with the Traffic police have started an auto ambulance service for the residents.
At present 25 auto drivers have been drafted into the service and the helpline number of this facility has been widely publicised.
Talking to Mumbai Mirror, Balsaheb Patil, Deputy Commissioner of Police, Thane Traffic Police said: “They approached us with the proposal, and we found it viable. The matter was discussed with the Kalyan RTO, and the approval was given to convert the auto-rickshaws into ambulances.”
The service which started on May 10 will soon have another 25 autos joining them. It will soon start at Thane also.
Among the associations which launched the services are Ambernath Citizen Forum and Nagrik Seva Mandal who are supported by the local business community and others.
Satyajit Burman, a Ambernath resident and one of the promoters of this service, elucidating about it told Mumbai Mirror, “We have bought everything for the autos — PPE kits for the drivers, N-95 face masks, face-shields, sanitisers, auto sanitation units, portable oxygen cylinders, and hand gloves. We are also arranging insurance coverage of Rs.2 lakh for each auto driver under the Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana.”
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