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Emergency care at every medical college

An ambulance parked in downtown New Delhi.

Every medical college in India will be home to an emergency care department by 2022, it has been announced. The news comes as a boon for emergency medicine, the status of which in India has long been scrutinised as a driver behind the high death toll due to physical trauma in the country. 

In the example of head injuries, one in six individuals who sustain brain trauma die – translating to more than 100,000 fatalities every year. As noted by Health Issues India, “one explanation for this [high death toll] is that an estimated 95 percent of trauma victims in India do not receive optimal care during the “golden hour” period after an injury is sustained.” Similarly, road traffic accidents killed 1.51 lakh Indians in 2016 – more than any other country in the world. Again, lack of optimal emergency care is often identified as a driver between this high mortality rate. 

To be clear, emergency care in India has improved in recent years. A 2017 report observed that “today, India boasts an EMS system that’s expanded exponentially and geographically. It’s gone beyond the early concepts, and the focus has shifted from being injury centric to covering all emergencies. It’s changed from being urban oriented to being pan-India.” Conversely, a 2007 study highlighted by the report said “India portrays a mirror image of the U.S. of the 1960s” when it comes to emergency care. However, it is clear that more needs to be done to facilitate higher standards of emergency medical services in India. To this end, the establishment of new trauma centres appears to be a step in the right direction. 

“We want to develop a cadre of emergency medicine specialists so that one doesn’t have to depend on referrals at the time of emergency,” said Professor Vinod K. Paul of Niti Aayog. “The objective is to strengthen interdisciplinary care and managerial care across the country.” Professor Paul chairs the Board of Governors serving as an interim medical education board until the National Medical Commission is established. 

With the planned reforms, the number of emergency care departments in India’s medical colleges is expected to increase to more than 500, compared to just thirty at present. This could effect much-needed improvements to emergency care and lead to improved outcomes for those who have sustained physical trauma, to receive the care they need in a timely manner.

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