No matter how developed a region is, there are certain remote areas that are very difficult to access due to the lack of roads and other routes. Regions that are primarily surrounded by water bodies or rough terrains usually have inaccessible routes and can be easily accessed by alternative transportations.
This is where alternative methods of providing medical assistance come into picture. There have been several instances globally, where people had to ditch the traditional ambulances and take the aid of aerial ambulances or ambulance boats. For areas that have substantial water bodies, the most efficient option in cases like these is that of ambulance boats.
What are Ambulance Boats?
Ambulance boats are boats that provide emergency medical assistance and services to areas that are remote and are surrounded by a water body. These ambulance boats are very similar to the traditional ambulances and are equipped with all the necessary gadgets including ventilators, surgery equipment, a team of paramedics, and other necessary equipment to provide aid to the victims. In cases of emergencies, some lifeguard vessels or lifeboats can also be used as ambulances to transport victims or casualties.
SOLAS and IMO Regulations for Ambulance Boats
Given the important functioning of ambulance boats, special attention needs to be paid in terms of their design and operation. The International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) and International Maritime Organization (IMO) have set a few specific rules that engineers must adhere to while designing ambulance boats.
An ambulance boat must be neither too big nor too small; it must be of 20-25 metres of maximum length. The fuel capacity, engine specifications, its minimum and maximum speed, beam size, hull material and structure should be specified.
Since these vessels are extremely weight sensitive, manufacturing ambulance boats has proven to be quite challenging at the yard. The vessel must be able to support at least 2 patients and have a minimum capacity of about 7 people.
The ambulance boat also must be regularly checked and upgraded for the newest additions to the medical equipment. It must include medical beds, portable stretcher, a platform to pull the patient aboard the ship, a functioning mooring and anchoring system, non-slip deck, floatation devices in case of emergencies and a staff of properly trained paramedics.
The ambulance boats must also have all the essentials including fire extinguishers, floatation, life rings, primary first aid kits and medical infusion kits. These vessels must also have proper communication devices to exchange patient information and advice with an expert in cases of complex medical procedures.
Uses of Ambulance Boats
Access to remote areas
Remote areas, which have extremely limited or no connectivity with the outside world, will get a guaranteed access to emergency healthcare services. The ambulance boats may serve as a source of connectivity to island like regions which are surrounded by water bodies.
Normally, when ambulances depart from their designated places, they can meet with traffic and other obstacles along the way that delay their time of arrival to the required region. When the life of hundreds hangs in the balance, every second is crucial. Ambulance boats, on the other hand, make use of the biggest and most efficient route of transportation – water. Large water bodies largely have very low or no traffic. Hence there can be no hindrance in the way of an ambulance boat as it is arriving to help the affected area. This will ensure that the ambulance boat reach the affected region on time.
Ambulance boats require a low investment cost as compared to the conventional ambulances. Although the actual cost of building, equipping, and maintaining an ambulance boat is steep, there is no need to construct water routes like constructing roads. Hence, there is no need for a large investment for infrastructure. Hence, on the whole, this is what makes ambulance boats a more viable option for investors.
Ambulance boats are designed with the sole purpose of providing the most efficient medical services to areas that are normally unfortunate enough to be secluded from. They are also designed to go faster than normal boats so as to reach the affected area more quickly.
Since the ambulance boats are already equipped with medical lockers, surgical equipment, medical beds, nursing rooms and paramedics, it will become easier and more efficient for people in need to get the required medical assistance. The paramedical staff on board the vessel is trained in the field and the medical supplies are regularly updated.
The advantages of ambulance boats in times of emergency have made them a valuable asset in many a natural disaster. The latest instance is that of the Kerala floods, where ambulance boats were instrumental in rescuing and saving dozens of lives in the flood-stricken areas. Here is a brief account.
The Role of Ambulance Boats in the Kerala Rescue Operation
The floods that hit Kerala on 15th August, 2018 were one of the worst cases of floods the nation had ever seen. Help from across the globe poured in to help those affected. The government commissioned marine ambulances to rescue and provide immediate medical attention to the victims of the flood. The roads were completely submerged under the flood water and ambulance boats were the only way to rescue the victims of the flood.
Since the number of casualties was very high, the fishermen community pitched in the rescue operation, turning fishing boats into temporary rescue boats and makeshift ambulances. Earlier this year the Chief Minister of Kerala had launched the first rescue cum ambulance boat introduced by Kerala Stated Water Transport Department. Trained staff, ambulance boats and supplies were assigned to help the rescue operations in Kerala.
Five marine ambulances were brought in to rescue people in the Alappuzha, Kottayam, and Pathanamthitta districts. Later, the government issued an open statement praising the work of these ambulance boats and the crucial role they played in saving the lives of people in distress.
Ambulance Boat Services and Service Providers
In India, the sector of ambulance boats is largely unexplored. For a country with as diverse waterways as ours, the use of ambulance boats on a regular basis can prove to be revolutionary.
These services in India have recently been made available by the government to states with a large coastal area. These ambulance boats are mainly provided for the purpose of rescuing fishermen in distress. In states where fishery is the primary occupation for a number of families, there is an abundance of people who are regularly on vessels as part of their jobs. If these fishermen need medical assistance in case of an emergency, the ambulance boat services made available will aid them.
A number of leading boat manufacturers in India, like SHM Shipcare, have pioneered the design and production of ambulance boats, due to the benefits that ambulance boats can offer if made available aplenty. They can be instrumental in saving the lives of people in need of medical attention located in distant and inaccessible areas. Today, there are a number of boat ambulance manufacturers and service providers who create customized ambulance boats using the most advanced technology, durable materials and are also cost-efficient.