Will air ambulance service ever take off?

THOUGH it is heartening to hear chief minister N Biren Singh announcing to launch special social security scheme for widows and differently-abled persons this month and formally implement the same by December 3, the air ambulance initiative of the government appears to be making not much progress if health minister L Jayantakumar’s remarks on Tuesday is any indication. Since the formative days of the BJP-led coalition government every health-related function had witnessed officials, ministers and even Governor Dr Najma Heptulla herself, making it a point to refer to the helicopter ambulance service, with one commonality in the comments of these government representatives being the usage of ‘soon’ narrative. The special scheme that envisions socio-economic wellbeing of all citizens, with particular emphasis towards facilitating the least fortunate section of the society such as widows and differently-abled persons, will certainly help the government’s endeavour for uniform development and raise the quotient of contentment in the society to some extent. Regardless of the ‘differently-abled persons’ terminology generally used to make them feel at par with the more fortunate and abled bodied persons, the fact remains that widows and people with disabilities are burdened by the same sense of helplessness. Hence, no efforts should be spared in smoothening their path and assist them for striving to live life with comfort. As effective implementation of National Social Assistance Programme (NSAP), which is a 100 per cent centrally-sponsored scheme, would give fresh hope to the women in distress; those in need of government support should not be given the slightest hint that their fate has been sealed with the passing away of the family patriarch owing to unsympathetic conduct of those entrusted to execute the welfare programmes.

Similarly, the need for expediting official process for actual launch of the air ambulance cannot be undermined as repetitive references to such a noble project without any substantial follow-up action would be akin to rubbing salt to the wounds of the public, especially those who are deprived of basic healthcare service, and arouse suspicion on whether they are being taken for a ride rather than the sick and needy airlifted for medical attention to healthcare centre. It is hoped that the government of Manipur would be able to convince the Centre for the materialisation of the air ambulance service instead of misrepresenting the government representatives as proponents of a big-budget movie. The initiative for introducing air ambulance service is commendable as it aims to provide emergency and non-emergency patient transport services to the nearest place having the best available service. The need of the hour is not to give the ‘feel good’ aura to those bereft of basic healthcare facility but to ensure the required basic service to the needy persons. Along with endeavouring for actual launch of air ambulance service without any further delay, the need for upgrading/strengthening the existing district civil hospitals with specialty departments and appropriate diagnostic and treatment facilities should be explored with all seriousness as taking care of the few who could be accommodated in the chopper cannot be equated to delivery of satisfactory healthcare service. On account of the government vision for transforming Manipur into a medical tourism destination, plans for improving the healthcare infrastructure and services need to be complemented with concrete measures for mere assurances cannot achieve the goal to avail world class medical care to the locals as well as international neighbours.

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