If you are having a heart attack, make sure the helpline you call is not Rescue 1122, a public rescue service rife with bureaucratic red tape.
Any calls that the helpline receives for any medical emergency will be directed to the department's higher officials before an ambulance can be dispatched. "Our hands are tied," said the shift incharge at the rescue service, Mumtaz Ashraf. "We cannot do anything on our own. If a person is having a heart attack and they contact Rescue 1122, we won't [be able to] help them out."
For her part, KMC's senior health director Dr Salman Kausar Ali insisted that the Rescue 1122 staff were completely independent when it came to dispatching the ambulance for emergencies. "However, we make sure that the service is not only being used by higher officials for their personal use," she said.
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Dr Ali admitted that they are unable to entertain too many cases of emergencies, such as heart attacks and road accidents, as there are other rescue services providing that service.
Ashraf added that reaching them on the phone is useless as they hardly ever facilitate these calls.
It is no surprise that the few telephone lines at the Rescue 1122 office in Civic Centre are buzzing the entire day. Complaints are noted but hardly any of them are entertained.
Ashraf pointed out that they received over 1,000 calls a day and nearly 900 of them are useless. "People call that when their sewerage line breaks or complain that their mobile signals have dropped," he said. "These are not problems we have to address. We only address the health and disaster related issues," he added, although he admitted later that they hardly address these issues.
According to him, the ambulance service is mostly used when a top official visits Karachi. "As Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has come today [Wednesday], so we received orders from the Karachi commissioner to deploy an ambulance at DJ Ground near CM House," he said.
Ashraf did point out that they send in their ambulances for bigger emergencies, such as a building collapse or a fire.
When Karachi administrator Roshan Ali Shaikh visited the helpline centre on Tuesday, he had announced that the number of telephone connections have been increased from 10 to 30 to address more complaints. A visit to the office showed that there were only two telephone sets receiving calls at the office.
Ashraf said they still have only 10 connections, but only four of them are functional. "The rest of the telephone connections are out of order," he said, adding he had no idea about Shaikh's claims of 30 telephone lines. The health director, Dr Ali, clarified they wanted to increase the number of telephone lines to 30 and have sent a request to the relevant authorities.
KMC's relief centres
During his visit, Shaikh had also said that the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) had provided first-aid treatment to over 40,000 patients in 42 heatstroke management centres. "Doctors were deputed for consultation so that steps could be taken to create awareness among the people about heatstroke and its precautionary measures," he had said, pledging to launch a campaign soon.
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Dr Ali added that doctors have been deployed at these centres to answer calls on the helpline and give people advice on how to deal with heatstroke.
The incharge of one of these poly clinics at Civic Centre, Imtiaz Shah, complained that the one telephone line given to them by the officials does not work. He pointed out that most of the people who visited their centre were employees of the KMC, not the general public.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 2nd, 2015.