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Affordable private air ambulances in six months

Three private hospitals have come together to start air ambulance consortia in the next six months to transfer critically ill patients from smaller towns to Delhi and Bangalore.

delhi Updated: Dec 02, 2011 23:07 IST
Jaya Shroff Bhalla

Three private hospitals have come together to start air ambulance consortia in the next six months to transfer critically ill patients from smaller towns to Delhi and Bangalore.

Apollo, Medanta and Narayana Hrudayala have joined hands to create an air ambulance network across the country to ambulift sick patients to bigger medical hubs to save their lives. In the first phase, the hospitals are planning to start services in Delhi and Bangalore and take it to Kolkata and Mumbai in the second phase.

A fully-equipped air ambulance costs Rs 10-11 crore.

"We are aiming to create a country-wide network where critically ill patients can be flown in from remote pockets to cities for timely treatment," said Dr Devi Prasad Shetty, chairman, Narayana Hrudalaya, Bangalore, speaking at CII, 8th India Health Summit in Delhi on Thursday.

"Although there are independent air carriers that lift sick patients, they are far too expensive. We want to bring the air-lifting charges down to the cost of road ambulances," said Dr Shetty.

"If an air ambulance does 300 hours of flying, it will equal the cost of road ambulances. Even if this is an exaggerated figure, it will still cut costs by a good 60-70%," he added.

"We are now working to acquire planes at the earliest. We don't want a patient who is two to three hours away to die because of high costs of patient transfer," said Dr Naresh Trehan, chairman and managing director, Medanta - The Medicity, Gurgaon.

"The cost of air-ambulances is high because of the high profit margins of air companies. We are inviting more hospitals and corporates in the consortia," he said.

"We are planning to fly the ambulances on an equity model, where all hospitals have an equal share and the debt burden comes down. We will have it managed by a neutral body," said Dr Shetty, elaborating on the plans.