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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

life saving 108 Ambulance ........... NHS - strike !!

Struck in the Chennai traffic, you hear the siren – that of an ambulance – many a times, wonder what to do – feeling helpless – with no space to move.  Some dub it as the road accident capital – with so many accidents heard and reported …. One good thing that happened is ‘108 free ambulance service’ – the farsighted initiativeof Ramalinga Raju and now operated by the  Tamil Nadu Health Systems Project,  the nodal agency that sponsors the 108 emergency response service along with GVK-EMRI, which is a private partner. It is one social intervention that has resulted in literally saving lives by attending to accident / ailment victims in the 'golden hour' when safe and knowledgeable transportation is critical.

The city’s utilisation of 108 has been increasing but emergency care managers say the ambulances were mostly sought for accident cases as against pregnancies and other emergencies like chest pain.  People can avail the services for accidents, pregnancy, chest pain, medical emergency including respiratory problems, oral poisoning, insect, snake and animal bites.

Most often people say that emergency vehicles, such as ambulances and fire engines, would move on designated lane without losing time in foreign countries.  Chennai, like any other Indian city lacks road width and most roads are congested allowing no place to move.  When we hear the siren of an ambulance, we should always move to the left and come to a complete stop.  Stop and do not move till the ambulance finds it was and surges through, irrespective of honking vehicles and overtaking vehicles.  At signal, if ambulance asks for way from behind, move front, move to left and stop……………and never tailgate an ambulance – it is no heroism, rank foolishness and idiotic.

The Hindu reports that on the festival Deepavali day, the ‘108’ emergency services may not be available. Members of the 108 Ambulance Workers Union in Tamil Nadu have said they plan to go on a State-wide strike for 24 hours, from 8 p.m. on October 21 to 8 p.m. on October 22, demanding a bonus. A notice to this effect was sent by the union to the management on October 7, union members said. It is stated that EMRI 108 has been in Tamil Nadu for six years now, since 2008 and in that time they have not received a single Deepavali bonus.  In Jan this year, they declared to go on 1 day strike which was eventually called off.  There are a total of 3,300 emergency management technicians, pilots (ambulance drivers) and call centre employees in the State, and they threaten to go on strike as a last resort. 

Hopefully things are sorted out amicably and they function with usual efficiency, especially on Deepavali day – when some mishaps do occur.

Away in UK, members  of the armed forces had to step in, as more than 400,000 NHS staff staged their first walk out in more than 30 years, mounting picket lines outside hospitals. Fewer than half those balloted for the controversial health strike voted in favour of the action - the first since 1982 - the Daily Mail revealed. Yet 400,000 nurses, midwives, paramedics, specialist health staff and hospital porters and cleaners staged the walk out from 7am for four hours. Military had to step in. 

Hundreds of thousands of health workers are set to bring the NHS to a halt by walking out in a row over pay. Picket lines were mounted outside hospitals across England, including the Royal Berkshire,from 7am on 12.10.14 and they are set to stay in place for four hours. They will take other forms of industrial action, in the form of work-to-rule, for the rest of the week, including ensuring staff take their allotted breaks.

Soldiers and police officers were called in to drive ambulances, taking the place of trained staff. The move sparked a row as unions claimed they had been kept in the dark about the plans. The strike was in protest at the Government's decision not to accept a recommended one per cent pay rise for all NHS staff.  The Health secretary Jeremy Hunt is quoted as saying that if the pay rise was implemented in addition to an automatic three per cent pay rise for most NHS staff each year, hospitals would be forced to lay off more than 14,000 nurses by next year.  
Midwives, nurses and other health workers mounted a noisy protest outside St Thomas' hospital opposite Parliament in Westminster. Most passing cars, buses and lorries tooted in support and patients arriving for appointments said they backed the action. 'It's weird being on strike, but we feel that enough is enough.'  - stated midwives.  The last time NHS staff walked out in a row over pay was 32 years ago. The three-day strike in 1982  rocked the health service, under Margaret Thatcher.  The present strike by members of the Royal College of Midwives, marks the first walk out midwives and support staff since the union was founded during Queen Victoria's reign in 1882.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

14th Oct 2014.

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