The mountains of Himachal Pradesh welcome thousands of adrenaline junkies every year. These mountaineers head to the hills with aspirations to “conquer” a mountain or reach another summit, and return with a sense of accomplishment.
Most trekkers go in groups—if you are an amateur trekker, you are most likely to join a group of experienced instructors, while seasoned trekkers might even take just one buddy on the go.
However, no matter how seasoned or well-equipped you are, the Himalayas can never be a completely safe bet. You are dealing with cold climate, uneven terrain, unpredictable weather, and all of this, at a high altitude.
Due to these reasons, there is always the risk of an unexpected accident in the Himalayas.
In several cases, trekkers meet with an accident or fall ill at high altitudes from where getting to a hospital is not an easy task.
To deal with such situations in an efficient manner, the Department of Health has issued a round-the-clock taxi service in Himachal Pradesh. The project will be an agreement signed between the Department of Health of the Willingdon Hospital in Manali and Heli Mission—a Swiss helicopter relief organisation that operates in several countries across the world.
Dr Bhishan, the Community Consultant at the Lady Willingdon hospital, told The Tribune, “We intend to start with one helicopter by the end of this year and after some time it could be increased to two choppers.”
The protocol asks that medical emergency calls should be made by dialling 108, following which the call will get redirected to a Control Room in Manali.
A team of doctors in Willingdon Hospital will then take a quick decision as to whether the patient needs critical care or airlifting.
In case they are airlifted, the patients can be dropped to PGI, Chandigarh or Indira Gandhi and Tanda Medical Colleges in Shimla and Kangra. According to The Tribune, usually, a chopper trip from Keylong to Bhuntar in Kullu costs about Rs 2 lakh.
However, under this agreement, all the costs of this Heli-ambulance will be undertaken by Heli-mission.
Pankaj Roy who is the director of National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) said, “the NGO will bear the entire cost of the project and the government will only provide them with land for setting up the hangar for parking of choppers.”
Currently, the Uttarakhand state government runs the heli-ambulance service but to deal with emergencies in remote areas; it relies on telemedicine services started in Kinnaur and Lahaul Spiti.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)