If you are ever unfortunate enough in Nairobi to require the services of an ambulance, you will be very lucky to get one pull up at your destination within an hour. Traditionally it takes about two hours. How come?
Most hospitals within the vicinity do not have an ambulance vehicle they can dispatch to get patients in need of an emergency medical attention. The hospitals that do have ambulances are few and far in between across the city. So chances are high you live on the other side of the city and will be calling on a hospital on the opposite end of the city. Before it makes its way through the Nairobi traffic, two hours might have lapsed and the patient’s situation might have deteriorated to very critical state.
However, imagine if ambulance operated like Uber taxis? You simply get online and call for one, and the ambulances don’t have to be owned by any hospitals, they just have to be affiliated to them. As it works out, good hospitals within your vicinity that do not have ambulance could sign up for such ambulance services, and in the event of an emergency, the patient simply ‘Ubers’ an ambulance to take them to the nearest hospital.
That is the novice idea of Flare Emergency Response team. They are a tech startup that have made it possible for people in Nairobi to go online and hail an ambulance. Founded by Caitlin Dolkart and Maria Rabinovich, Flare has launched the web-based ‘Rescue’ service. They have also enrolled at a pool of 40 ambulances across Nairobi and at least 10,000 users mostly coming from corporate members during their one-month-pilot program.
The 40 ambulances will be spread across Nairobi, and in the case of an emergency, the patient will be taken to the nearest affiliate hospital. This program is said to cut down the time it takes for Nairobi residents to get an ambulance pull up to their premises from the traditional two hours down to eight minutes.
On the other side it reduces the cost of operations for hospitals. They don’t need to own an ambulance vehicle and have trained paramedics on their payrolls. Thanks to the affiliation with the Flare Emergency Rescue services, all that is taken care of; they simply have to receive the patient in their ICU unit and focus on the medical treatment part of it.
“We wanted a service that saves lives via prompt response and we have tested the service, bringing down emergency rescue service to eight minutes from the traditional two hours. Swift response means less health complications to a patient who receives first aid from paramedics and evacuation to a hospital of choice,” said Dolkart.
Rabinovich clarified further that each ambulance is equipped with mobile communication gadget, and the team will be available around the clock. Patients can access the service online and the rescue team will be dispatched to their location ASAP. The service first deploys a paramedic on a motorcycle (quite ideal for cutting through the sometime bumper-to-bumper traffic Nairobi experiences), who will arrive on the scene fast and assess the situation and help as appropriate. The paramedic rider will be shortly joined by other paramedics in an ambulance.
“We wanted hospitals to concentrate on medical services provision and let logistics companies operate ambulance services from a pool. This will save everyone time and money while creating a new revenue stream for hospitals and private companies that own ambulances,” said Rabinovich.
We are averting a situation where a specialized doctor is called from other locations when an ill patient arrives at a hospital; with our medical alert service, the hospital is fed with information on the patient’s condition when the patient is on the way. Time wasted means loss of life or a patient going into a coma while swift response means cheaper treatment for the patient and the community.
Competition among the various ambulance companies will mainly hinge on offerings such as presence of paramedics, type of vehicle, service level and price,” she said, adding that a patient’s condition and location will determine the type of ambulance released to the scene.”