News : Call to Unite All State Emergency Helplines
Pune, India, Nov 23, 2015 -- With a view to addressing the extremely poor response that all helpline numbers started by the state health department have been witnessing, the Union health secretary, in Pune on Saturday, has suggested that only one common number be instituted for all these, so that call rates can be improved. According to him, the profusion of numbers tends to confuse callers and make the services less popular.
Taking this seriously, the state has planned to come up with a single helpline number for several issues to be handled under one roof. This new complaint redressal forum will invite people to call in not only for ambulance services, but also mental health counselling, maternal and child care counselling, suicide counselling, and also blood transfusions, complaints against medical officers, etc.
So far, there exist five helplines dedicated to different issues — 104 for mental health issues/blood on call, 102 for maternal and child care, and 108 for emergency ambulances, PCPNDT complaints and the Rajeev Gandhi Jeevandayi Yojana.
Union health secretary Manoj Jhalani confirmed, "My visit was to observe the status of where Maharashtra stands in the National Urban Health Mission grid and its related programmes. It was noticed that various helpline numbers are not needed. It also came to light that the expected response is too less, largely because people cannot memorise all these numbers. Taking this into account, it was suggested that a single helpline be made workable. This will not only improve call rates but also popularity, just like 911, which is very popular in the US."
He added, "As of now, a variety of numbers is not recollected easily in case of emergency. People often end up calling private hospitals or centres. If we want to improve our public services, we must first spread awareness about one universal forum to provide all needed services."
Taking note of this, the state health department has planned to chalk out the procedure for such a single helpline. Deputy director of health services, Dr H H Chavan, said, "The suggestion was well received. It is true that so many numbers are not needed, and they are why people are calling us less. We need a number that is easy to remember and encompasses many facilities under one umbrella. Our new call centre will not only be a complaint redressal forum, but will also make healthcare suggestions."
Dr Sadhna Tayade, joint director of state health services, said, "It is true that the response has been less than expected. We also want more people to call us, so this common number seems viable." She also said that many members of the public already do not know that 104, for example, provides blood on call besides mental health counselling. "This also proves that a single helpline is preferable idea," she added.
A source from the 104 helpline said on condition of anonymity, "Our target is to cater to at least 3,000-4,000 calls a day. But, we hardly receive 1,500 to 2,500 calls. Of these, just about two to five per cent call for blood services — this means many are unaware of this amenity. It has been four years, but we have been unsuccessful in making this popular. Besides, this is a statewide service, so it is embarrassing to see just a handful of callers seeking advice and services from us, even as many call private helplines instead. If this continues, our helpline will someday be shut down. Now is the time for action."
As of now, a variety of numbers are not recollected easily in case of emergency. People often end up calling private hospitals or centres instead.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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Published: Thursday, November 26, 2015