The utilisation of the emergency referral system ('108' ambulance service) in Punjab is adequate, but it needs improvement in quality and reduction of cost to the health system, according to a study conducted by the Post-Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) here.
As per the recent study published in scientific journal PLOS One by the School of Public Health, PGIMER, the ambulance service received around 4 lakh phone calls in one year (April 2012 to March 2013) in the state.
It was found that about four patients were being transported by each ambulance each day. Almost 37% of the calls were received during morning hours (8am to 2pm), 32% between 2pm and 8pm, and 31% during night hours (8pm to 8am). A majority (87.3%) of the patients transported to public healthcare institutions were females (70%), and had maternal and pre-natal complications (76%).
In about one-third of the calls, the study found, the ambulance reached the spot within 10 minutes, and within 20-30 minutes for 85% of the calls. The time taken to transport the patient to the health facility was less than half-an-hour in 23% of the cases and less than one hour in 74% of the cases. The average time taken by an ambulance to reach the spot and transport the patient to the health facility was 17.5 minutes and 48 minutes, respectively. Among 78% of the callers, the service was provided irrespective of the time of the call (day or night hours).
"This rate of utilisation is reported to be optimal from the viewpoint of efficiency in an earlier evaluation. The poor and those at a spot away from the health facility have a higher usage of the '108' service, reflecting fair utilisation," said Dr Shankar Prinja, assistant professor of health economics, PGIMER.
"However, our results indicate that the '108' service in Punjab did not result in a significant increase in institutional deliveries in public sector institutions," Dr Prinja added. The cost of operating the service was found to be Rs 1,361 per patient or Rs 21 per km.
"The ERS in Punjab needs improvement in terms of quality and reduction of cost to the health system," the study found.
The '108' ambulance service, launched in Punjab in 2011, offers services free of cost for all institutional deliveries and road accident cases. firstname.lastname@example.org
Figures that matter
240 Total number of '108' ambulances in Punjab
5 Ambulances (approx) per 1,000 square km area
5 Phone calls (approx) received per day by each ambulance
70km Average distance travelled by each ambulance daily