A heavily pregnant Sandhya Yadav of Samretha village trudged 6km of unpaved road and waded across a muddy canal before taking a taxi to reach a community health centre in Madhya Pradesh’s Chhatarpur district.
She was in labour and still she walked because the government-run Janani Express ambulance for pregnant women didn’t turn up, despite repeated calls.
Her family said they informed the accredited social health activist of the village, Heerabai Ahirwar, moments after Sandhya complained of labour pain around 3.30pm on Thursday evening.
Ahirwar dialed the Janani Express Helpline and also informed the Janani Express at the health centre in Guwahra town, 16km away, about the emergency. She was assured a vehicle was on the way.
But the ambulance didn’t reach the village. Sandhya’s anxious husband, Rajesh, and her in-laws tried to reach the health centre over the phone. There was no response.
As Sandhya’s pain increased every passing minute, she and mother-in-law Jamunabai decided to walk to the health centre and, luckily, got a taxi on the way at Sarkana village.
Ahirwar accompanied the two women and they reached the health centre in Guwahra around 6.30pm.
All along the family kept hoping the Janani Express helpline or the ambulance driver would call back. Neither did.
Sandhya delivered a healthy boy after a couple of hours. Both mother and child are fine.
Villagers said if the bad road between Samretha and Sarkana was any problem, the driver could have chosen an alternative route from Bhagwa village.
Chhatarpur chief medical and health officer VK Gupta said he issued a notice to the Janani Express director and the ambulance driver as well. Strict action would be taken against the guilty.
The state government launched the service in 2007 with Unicef’s help to provide timely healthcare to pregnant women and sick infants in rural areas. It operates a 24/7 call centre in every district to manage requests for emergency transport for rural patients.
Gupta said the call center should function from Bhopal to ensure higher authorities kept tabs on errant drivers and bad response to requests.
The ambulance plays a vital role to reduce mother and child mortality in the state.
A 2014 UN report said India accounted for the maximum number of maternal deaths in the world —nearly 50,000 of the 289,000 women who died of complications from pregnancy and childbearing in 2013.