(PRESS RELEASE) – In a groundbreaking initiative, the country’s very first fully fledged free pre-hospital care ambulance service numbering a collective of 88 state of the art fully equipped vehicles was flagged off at Galle Face Green. To be operated initially in the Southern province with the service rolled out into the Western Province within a fortnight, the ambulance service is trailblazing on many fronts.
Under the direct intervention of Indian Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, this is the first time India has presented an outright grant of US $7.6 Mn to Sri Lanka to uplift and improve medical facilities in the country on this front. This expounds the depth and scope of the world class ambulances as well as the training and development extended to Sri Lankans in ensuring that best possible care is extended to patients. Through this initiative, over 550 Sri Lankans are being given employment including 250 EMTs who were trained in India as per stringent standards expected of this care. In addition, 250 pilots and 50 Call Center Operators have been trained and equipped with knowhow and competencies in managing and administering emergency care. This extent of knowledge transfer, which includes US paramedic certifications and a state of the art Command and Control Center located in Rajagiriya, is another first etched in the country’s medical annals.
At the flagging off ceremony, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe who noted that he’s happy to be associated with such a noble initiative, said, “We are pleased to keep a promise made to the people during the General Election last year. This is a service that is much needed by the people and a timely one indeed.” Given the socially responsible facets embedded in this initiative, Indian Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, who was directly responsible in ensuring the fruition of the free ambulance service to Sri Lanka, in mentioned that it is a great honour for the Government of India to be associated with this initiative.
Under the aegis of the Ministry of Health, Nutrition and Indigenous Medicine, Project 1990, which takes as its title the toll free number for emergency management in Sri Lanka, will be rolled out to the entire country eventually. Accessible from any network 24x7x365 via the Command and Control Center, the service collates a multi-linked umbrella of stakeholders including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Telecommunication Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka Telecom and the Director General of Police.
The Minister of Health, Nutrition and Indigenous Medicine Dr Rajitha Senaratne, who lauded the initiative, thanked the Indian Government for making this emergency response project an actuality. “It is in that first golden hour that care must be administered in emergency situations and given that these pre-hospital care ambulances are not only equipped with all the facilities to administer that pre-hospital care but also have highly trained personnel whose knowledge enables that care, is truly the difference between a life and death situation.”
Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr Harsha De Silva who is responsible for mooting this pre-hospital care ambulance service enthused that this dream that began as an almost impossible one with a vision to save hundreds of lives is now a reality, affirming an election pledge made by the Prime Minister. “While Sri Lanka’s healthcare is well ahead of the region and in most instances even the developed world, the only lacuna that existed was in gaining timely access to emergency ambulances with trained para-medical staff. This world class fully equipped ambulance service manned by certified medical technicians can now get to the emergency location in under 30 minutes, stabilize and transport the patient to the nearest appropriate state sector hospital.”
Chairman of GVK EMRI Dr G V K Reddy commenting on the knowledge transfer stated, “It is indeed a matter of great honor and fulfillment to be a part of this historic moment of commencement of Emergency Management Services in Sri Lanka. I am personally indebted to both the Honorable Prime Ministers of India and Sri Lanka for their trust placed in GVK EMRI in realizing this dream of implementing 1990 Emergency Services in Lanka.”