Sri Lanka ambulance service to cut response time with mobile app

ECONOMYNEXT- Suwa Seriya 1990, Sri Lanka’s free state-owned ambulance service, will cut its response time by as much as one and a half minutes with the launch of a new mobile app, a minister said.

"With the mobile app, we are reducing the need for our staff to fill out the information of a caller," Economic Affairs and Public Distribution Minister Harsha de Silva said.

"They will only need to know the condition of the person requiring treatment," he said.

"That will save around one to one and a half minutes in the response time of our ambulances."

"For someone having a heart attack, responding one minute earlier means an additional 10 percent chance of saving their life."

The new ‘1990’ app is available for Android phones, and will be available for Apple iPhones in a fortnight.

The app is linked to an emergency dispatch management system at Suwa Seriya 1990 offices.

If a call is not made through the app, officials have to gather and type out information about the caller manually.

Currently, the ambulance service averages an 8 minute response time in the Western Province, and 11 minutes and 25 seconds in other provinces, de Silva said.

"I don’t think ambulances in the US, UK or even Japan have an 8 minute response time," he said.





In the UK, 9 out of 10 responses were within 13 minutes, according to mid-2018 statistics of the National Health Service, while for those in critical condition such as heart attacks, the average response time was 7 minutes and 38 seconds.

In the US, there are no national statistics. In Florida, a state with national per capita gross domestic product below the US average, the typical response time was 10 minutes and 10 seconds, in 2015.

In Pennsylvania, a state richer than average America, the response time was 9 minutes in mid-2018.

In the capital Washington D.C., the target for the highest priorities such as heart attacks is 5 minutes, with 52.6 percent of the responders managing to hit the target in February 2019, while for incidents with the second highest priority, 43.9 percent of the responders hit the 9 minute target.

In Australia, 90 percent of the responses to critical cases within state capitals ranged between 14.1 to 20.8 minutes, while statewide ranged between 14.7 minutes to 29.4 minutes in 2017-18.

De Silva said that the data of Suwa Seriya, launched in 2016, is now being analysed to gain better insights.

Meanwhile, he said that the average cost of dispatching an ambulance in Sri Lanka is 27 US dollars, while in the US, patients are given bills of over 500 US dollars. Ambulance rides in advanced economies typically run up to thousands of dollars.

"I think this is the most efficient service in Sri Lanka," de Silva said.

The service is currently available in 8 provinces, with the Northern Province set to receive it from end-May, the minister said.

Around 300 ambulances will be servicing the country once the project is launched in the Northern Province, he said.

So far, 258 ambulances are operating, with some still being activated in the Eastern Province.

The state spends around 2 billion rupees a year to maintain the ambulance service, de Silva said.

It was started as a pilot project in the Southern Province, with a 7.5 million US dollar grant from the Indian government, followed by a 15.2 million US dollar investment from the Sri Lankan government for an islandwide rollout.

"Usually, projects started by foreign countries end after the foreign funds dry up, but this project is unlike those ones," he said.

Since the project’s start, till May 3, Suwa Seriya 1990 has responded to 1.1 million calls and dispatched ambulances 210,023 times, as 4-5 people call in for an ambulance on average, especially in cases of road accidents, de Silva said.
(COLOMBO, May 08, 2019-SB)

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