State helpline for sick infants, help for pregnant women soon

The West Bengal Government is planning to launch a toll-free helpline -102 -to ferry pregnant women and sick infants to nearby hospitals. The State has already begun the process of tendering for technological partners.

The State Health department is setting up the 24×7 helpline to address the need for emergency healthcare and transportation services in remote areas, especially for obstetric and neonatal care.

A centralized call centre, with staffers conversant in Bengali, Hindi, English and Nepali, will take calls, dial ambulances and contact the nearest sick neonatal care unit (SNCU) or the closest one with an available bed. Doctors will also be present at the control room to guide health staff during emergency. If needed, patients may be admitted to private hospitals as well. The transport to the hospital and back will be free.

The purpose of the endeavour is to provide a safety net for expecting mothers and sick infants by ensuring provision for a complete emergency transportation service. The centre and state are sharing the project cost under the national health mission.

The ambulances will be equipped with medicines, medical consumables and oxygen, which will be replenished regularly . The vehicles will also be GPS-enabled. The call centre attendant will guide the ambulance driver and the medical staff on ground. The call centre will keep track of patients along with all details of medications, admission, emergency treatment and the time of discharge so that an ambulance can be provided for ferrying the patient home.

A SMS integration gateway will also be set up so that on receiving a message, the call centre can send it to the police, fire brigade or blood banks.