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25 Mar 2019, Edition - 1350, Monday

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Coimbatore

Battling all odds everyday

Vignesh Vijayakumar

They play a crucial role in saving lives. They race against time and fight all odds doing this. Unfortunately their role is not recognised anywhere. Still they continue to do their work tirelessly.

Meet the first responders – the people behind ‘108’ – whom we approach during emergency.

According to K.K. Selvam, a pilot (ambulance driver), they have tough time navigating through main roads, especially during peak hours. “If people give us way, we can drive at a normal speed.

Unfortunately some people just halt their vehicles in front of the ambulance in signals. During such time, we get delayed and speed our way to the hospitals,” he says.

Manoj Kumar. R, area coordinator of ‘108’ said, “Some people don’t realise that we get stuck in traffic. The moment we reach their house they start abusing us.” Under him, there are 17 ambulance vans and one bike ambulance with 41 pilots and 48 emergency medical technicians (EMTs).

The pilots and EMTs fight all odds while on duty. “Women EMTs can avail certain facilities in hospitals. They are allowed to sleep in the hospitals. Unfortunately the pilots do not have such facilities. They sleep in the vehicles only,” says Priya, an EMT.

“During night shifts we are not supposed to move away from the vehicle. We sit inside the vehicle only,” says Saravana Kumar, a pilot.

The salaries they receive too is quite low. A pilot gets Rs. 10,700 and an EMT Rs. 13,000. “We have been demanding hike in our salaries. But in vain. The Government should regularise our jobs too,” adds Saravana Kumar.

Lack of sensitivity among the people puts these ‘108’ staff down. “People just dial 108 even for common fever and headache. Sometimes we get calls from people to take drunken men to hospitals.

Sometimes people don’t give us proper address and exact location. It is a battle against all odds,” says Priya.

On handling traffic, all pilots were unanimous in their opinion on the need of a flyover at Athupalam. “When we bring a patient from Pollachi to Coimbatore Medical College and Hospital, we are able to cover 40 km in just 40 minutes. But from Athupalam to CMCH it takes more than 15 minutes,” they say.

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