Our story is one about nation changing work of driving disruptive innovation– a story that has been written at Harvard and the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, a story that has been documented by Films Division of India and brought to television by Shri Amitabh Bachchan in Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC), a story of pioneering Highway Trauma Care, Road Safety, EMS (Emergency Medical Services) and shifting the paradigm of Occupational Health to Industrial EMS, from being the first in South Asia to demonstrate the success of the idea of a uniform single emergency helpline to making EMS a fundamental right for its citizens.
Our story is both, a legendary trail of social acts of courage and evidence based medical science because simply put Life Matters to Us.
Medicare Consultancies, the first of our companies was established in 1999 by Ms Sushmita Das to provide out-of-hospital emergency care consultancy services to the manufacturing and health industry in Gujarat and Rajasthan.
Later the same year, Ms Sushmita Das and her husband, Dr Subroto Das (a Padma Shri Awardee) met with a life threatening accident on India’s busiest highway, NH8. They along with co-passengers, fought death, while stranded for 4 ½ dark hours on a rainy night.
It is there where ‘Our Story’ began!
Lifeline Foundation and its internationally feted Highway EMS – Highway Rescue Project (HRP) was born out of that physically unbearable and mentally distressful experience, the Founding Trustees had to undergo.
Without losing hope, they fought for their own lives and that of their co-passengers. At around dawn, they finally managed to get some help.
Time spent during recovery was used to debate and deliberate with colleagues what Ms Sushmita Das wanted: “We were lucky to be alive, let’s ensure others don’t die on the highways.”
With this focus, they worked with friends, doctors (notably Dr Minoo Patel, Dr Vijay Shah & Dr Vijay Thakore) and management experts, brainstorming on various ideas to ensure that accident victims reached the safety of a hospital.
Three years thence, post overcoming various barriers, the couple implemented the idea of an integrated and centralized network of ambulances and other rescue utilities. The idea was new, refreshing and life-saving. Without owning a single facility, Lifeline built a network of ambulances, cranes, metal cutters, hospitals, blood banks and co-ordinated with police to launch HRP on 263 kilometres of NH8 on 1st of July 2002 between Ahmedabad and Surat.
Manually mapping the highway to incorporate each and every named and unnamed landmark, Lifeline developed a GIS to locate the caller – in case of an accident, when India did not even have GPS! A 24×7 control room with no precedence of this magnitude in South Asia was set up. Soon, 98250 26000 became the lifeline for all highway users in the state of Gujarat.
Overtime, as success stories of our saving lives and limbs of highway accident victims spread, corporates and non-profits joined in the effort. From 263 km of highways and a network of 17 providers in Gujarat the organisation spread to work across 5 states – Gujarat, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Kerala and West Bengal with a total network of 1000+ providers across 6000+ km of National Highways in a period of 4 years, intervening in 15,000+ accidents, transporting 20,000+ accident victims to the safety of hospitals.
The never ending zeal, backed by the vision to ensure that lives are not lost because of lack of emergency care led us to broaden our horizon. Soon, along with various other stakeholders, we helped catalyse EMS Ahmedabad and EMS Vadodara as participative city-based EMS.
In 2004, government took notice of our work, as did corporate leaders including Mr Ramalinga Raju, Founder Chairman of the erstwhile Satyam leading to the birth of 108 services in India. Also in 2004, the Government of India finally took steps to include Emergency Care as the 4th E of Road Safety.
Post the Tsunami in 2004, we were called to help train and set up the 110 system in Sri Lanka in 2009. Footprints in Bangladesh followed in 2010 and in Nepal post the earthquake.
Continuously struggling through a maze of challenges, the vision to save lives spread to other sectors, a sister firm, Baroda Life Management Pvt Ltd, was incorporated in 2013 to reach out quality emergency care to industries, ports, mines, airstrips and oil rigs.
An important chapter unfolding now in ‘Our Story’ is our effort to instiutionalise Trauma Care policies in Governments across South Asia and to empower the bystander and other stakeholders to intervene in emergencies till an ambulance arrives; creating a more inclusive trauma care system.
Enlarging the scope of Trauma Care stakeholders to AYUSH doctors is the new disruptive innovation we have just embarked on; training them in Primary Trauma Care to mainstream them, building partnerships with academia and AYUSH Ministry, a never thought of initiative in EMS and Trauma Care in India.
Today, the 3 organisations, carefully integrated functionally, continue to take forward the story of EMS across South Asia.