A few days ago, Zakir Hossain of Shakchar village in Lakshmipur Sadar upazila had a cardiac arrest in the middle of the night. His helpless wife, Mahmuda Akter, called in a local physician. However, his physical condition was not improving. The local physician suggested taking Zakir to Dhaka immediately. But where would she get an ambulance in this remote village so late at night!
One of the relatives told her to try for the ambulance through an app, and sure enough, an ambulance arrived within just 10 minutes of seeking help. Zakir is now being treated at a private hospital in Dhaka. He was saved from any serious complications as he was brought to the hospital in time.
Three-year-old Abdullah bin Zayan, son of Saiful Alam of Bashikpur village in Lakshmipur Sadar upazila, fell ill after eating seven or eight litchis on Saturday night. The local physician advised to send him to Dhaka. But Zayan's family could not arrange an ambulance at first. The family was anxious. Later, they got an ambulance through the same app. Zayan was admitted to Dhaka Medical College Hospital. His father Saiful said the boy is doing fine now.
Many patients in the remote villages of Lakshmipur like Zakir and Zayan now rely on the 'Swapnojatra' app. The ambulance service has become easily available due to the launch of this app. In the last nine months, the ambulance of the 'Swapnayatra' app has transported 358 patients to different hospitals at low cost.
The Lakshmipur district administration has launched the ambulance service called ‘Swapnojatra’ to alleviate the sufferings of the common people and to make health services available at their doorsteps.
There are a total of 10 ambulances in 5 upazilas of the district. The authority has also hired 10 drivers. The district and upazila administration have purchased these ambulances from their own funds. Locals have also expressed satisfaction for such a service from the district administration.
Lakshmipur deputy commissioner (DC) Anwar Hossain Akand told Prothom Alo, “This is an exceptional initiative to bring healthcare to the doorsteps of the people. The initiative is aimed at reducing maternal and child mortality. The response was overwhelming as soon as the service was launched. If this activity can be spread all over the country, the death rate will reduce. This is an app based service.”
He is also hopeful that this initiative would be a new and significant inclusion in the field of health services.
How it started
A few years ago, DC Anwar Hossain Akand visited several countries including Japan and Korea. In Japan he observed people calling a certain number if someone had a heart attack and an ambulance appeared within a few minutes.
However, in Lakshmipur he saw ambulances were not available even at times when someone was in labour pain. If not taken to the hospital on time, both mother and child are at risk of death. Many do not even dare to call an ambulance due to high charges.
After the outbreak of coronavirus, many were affected. No other vehicle in the village, not even a rented ambulance, agreed to carry a coronavirus patient at the time. Many had suffered a lot due to this.
The journey of 'Swapnojatra' started with an ambulance in September last year. Now this service is running with 10 ambulances in 58 unions of the district. The process of purchasing seven more ambulances is underway. The ambulances have been procured from the own funds of the district and upazila administrations at a cost of Tk 26 million. The ambulances are stationed at the union parishad office.
According to hospital sources and some ambulance drivers, the distance from Lakshmipur to Dhaka is about 140 kilometres. The rent of private ambulances for this distance is between Tk 6,000 to 7,000 while a public ambulance costs around Tk 4,000 to 5,000. However, the ambulances of ‘Swapnojatra’ cost only Tk 2,500 to 3,000.
The name ‘Swapnajatra’
Details of this service can be found by downloading the app called Swapnajatra from Google play store. The district administration has spent Tk 50,000 to make the app.
Murad Hossain, a school teacher from Kushakhali village in Laxmipur Sadar upazila, said, “When a patient's condition worsens, he is asked to be transferred to the district hospital immediately. But ambulances are not available in remote villages. Even if found, the private ambulance costs one and a half to two thousand taka. Many relatives take patients by CNG-powered autorickshaw or easybike. But the patients suffer a lot. Ambulances of 'Swapnayatra' are now available at a low cost.
Sadar upazila nirbahi officer (UNO) Imran Hossain said that this ambulance service has been introduced in every union as part of the implementation of 'My Village, My City' project. This activity is being carried out by the district and upazila administration with its own funds. Some 10 drivers have been hired for the ambulances. Upazila administration and union parishad are in charge of supervising the ambulances. The cost of ambulance driver and fuel comes from the revenue of this service.