The need for boat ambulances in India

Manish Sacheti
May 10, 2018

India as a country is as diverse in its culture, as it is in its terrain. While we have roads and highways connecting the country, we also have waterways which are a more viable mode of transport in some regions as compared to roadways. Terrains which cannot be easily connected through either roadways or waterways, are made accessible with the use of aerial modes of transportation.

When it comes to medical emergencies, often people lose valuable time in reaching the hospital and getting the required treatment in time. Keeping the complexities of the Indian landscape in mind, the Government along with private companies has introduced with emergency ambulance services like bike ambulance, boat ambulance and air ambulance. While the air ambulance and bike ambulance space has seen some traction, the boat ambulances are still largely unexplored. Below are a few driving points that emphasize the need of the growth of boat ambulances in India:

Extensive Inland Waterway Network

India has 111 designated National Waterways (NWs) which have been identified for potential inland water transport and NWs 1, 2 and 3 are already operational. This network which covers around 20,275 kilometers, is also home to a large population of people that can benefit from this transportation. In certain instances, the easiest way of transportation is waterways and in case of emergencies, boat ambulances can effectively and quickly transport the patients that require urgent medical assistance.

Difficult terrain

According to the 2011 census, eight per cent of India’s population consist of tribals who live in isolated areas, located closed to water bodies. Boat ambulance services can actively help these residents reach medical services in time.

Improve response time and reduce transportation time

Boat ambulances can be faster in a few areas which are surrounded by water bodies, making it a more efficient means of travel. In such cases, ambulances can be deployed to reach the patient in the golden hour itself, so that there are better chances of survival. With advanced emergency medical equipment as well as trained paramedics on board, the first responder medical treatment can begin as the patient is en route the hospital.

Onshore Accidents

During monsoons, fishing expeditions and tourist boating adventures can sometimes go awry and result in unforeseen fatalities. Additionally, navy merchants, fishing communities and island-dwellers are out on the sea for months on end where they might face unprecedented accidents that require urgent medical care. In such scenarios, boat ambulances can serve as precautionary measures and rise to the occasion as protectors on the waterfront.

Natural Disasters

In areas such as Chennai, Mumbai, Assam, Odisha, etc., where flooding has led to many casualties, boat ambulances can be used to provide relief and rescue the ones in need of ambulance services and help save more lives.

Connectivity till the last mile

Emergency medical care is available to most city dwellers in India, but when it comes to the rural population, they need to travel for hours to reach to a hospital for treatment. In a few states, we have witnessed numerous cases where the family of the patient has carried them on their backs to the hospital or has not receive timely help due to the complicated terrain of the area in which they live. To avoid such gruesome incidents, introducing boat ambulances would be useful for the people as they will receive help in the crucial golden hour.

Boat ambulances can prove beneficial with advantages like low cost investments, high efficiency, increased emergency service penetration and reduced transportation time. This service can be highly successful and aid in utilising India’s inland waterways to a greater extent.


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