Mumbai: In a first, the Maharashtra government is planning to tap Mumbai’s seaways to connect remote villages in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region with a water ambulance and a floating medical care service.
The state public health department last week approved a project to set up the water ambulance service between Gateway of India in south Mumbai to Mandwa in Raigad district, and is in the process of issuing tenders.
The water ambulance will cut the travelling distance between the two points to 30 minutes as against the nearly three to four hours it takes by road, and make south Mumbai’s major hospitals such as J.J. Hospital, St George Hospital, Madam Cama Hospital and Bombay Hospital accessible to patients from Raigad district.
The coastal Raigad district has 1,951 villages, many of which will benefit from the ambulance service. The district is a part of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region.
“Currently, the Alibaug district hospital is the only big hospital for the villages around Mandwa, but travelling from far-off villages from Murud or Shrivardhan taluka to the main town of Alibaug can also take more than two hours. The water ambulance will help any patient travel to a Mumbai hospital from Mandwa within the golden hour,” a state health department official said.
The Gateway of India and Mandwa already have jetties, which will be used for the water ambulance too, cutting down on any additional infrastructure cost.
‘Coastal villages will get primary healthcare’
The proposed ambulance, which will be equipped with a doctor, nurse, basic medical equipment and medicines, will also function as a water-based medical care unit for the various villages along the Raigad district coast.
“We can make an area-wise schedule and the vehicle can go to all coastal villages to give basic healthcare. The service will be a part of the ‘108’ helpline for ambulances,” the above-quoted official said.
The health department will implement the project under the Centre’s National Health Mission, starting with just one such sea ambulance on an experimental basis for one year, the official added.
“Depending on the response, we will ramp up the service,” she said.
The entire project will be outsourced — right from procuring and setting up a boat ambulance to arranging for the manpower and operating it.
‘First boat ambulance on the high seas’
The state government already has a boat ambulance service on a short stretch of the Narmada river to cater to 30 tribal villages in Nandurbar district that are not connected by roads.
State health department officials said that states such as Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, and Gujarat, too, have boat ambulances operating on short stretches of rivers.
“Ours is, perhaps, the first boat ambulance proposed on the high seas. The challenges of operating such a boat ambulance on the high seas as against on rivers are entirely different,” the official said.
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