by April Stewart, SAST
A friend once told me that Indian drivers must share a common unspoken language- one that allows them to drive within centimeters of one another or straight into oncoming traffic, just barely avoiding a collision. I have yet to prove this wrong, to the contrary, I would add that most pedestrians, roaming cows and street dogs seem to be at least proficient in this language.
However, there are instances when this unspoken language fails, ending in road traffic accidents. Road accidents are a concern across India, and is a particularly relevant issue in Bangalore’s legendary traffic, as Karnataka is amongst the highest ranking states in road accidents. According to the “Road Accidents in India 2015” report by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, Karnataka was the 4th highest state in the number of road accidents in 2015, totaling more than 44,000; Bengaluru was 4th among the worst ten cities.
To address this, under the aegis of the Karnataka Department of Health and Family Welfare, the Suvarna Arogya Suraksha Trust (SAST) launched the Mukhyamantri Santwana Harish Scheme (MSHS) for road traffic accident victims in March 2016. The first of its kind in India, this scheme provides up to Rs. 25,000/ for trauma care needed during the first 48 hours. The scheme is available to anyone injured in a road traffic accident in Karnataka, irrespective of BPL/APL status, state or nationality, at any hospital empaneled under the SAST scheme.
The scheme was named after Harish Nanjappa, who died in February 2016 after he was severely injured in a road traffic accident. He did not receive prompt medical treatment, but remained conscious and speaking long enough to ask bystanders and the ambulance driver to ensure that his organs were donated. Due to the severity of his injuries most of his organs could not be used, but his dying wish to help others was fulfilled as his eyes were donated moments after his death.
During the initial scoping period, the IIC SAST team realized the potential of this newly launched scheme and recognized that we could contribute to its expansion. We have worked on a variety of subjects related to MSHS, and while I could describe the MSHS empanelment strategy or awareness campaigns we’ve proposed, it would cause my carpal tunnel to flair up and would probably be boring for you to read.
Instead, I will share two of the stories we have collected from beneficiaries treated under MSHS. These stories were collected to highlight MSHS successes, attract funders and increase knowledge of the scheme’s attributes and impact. While I get excited at the thought of conducting an impact study or a cost-benefit analysis, I also find that these stories have given me perspective.
Sampath Kumar, an 86 year-old male who worked as a coolie/daily wage laborer prior to his accident.
Looking blearily from his bed, 86 years old Sampath Kumar recounts what happened to him a day earlier while crossing the road. A classic example of hit-and-run cases, Kumar sustained multiple hip fractures when a bike hit him. Brought in by helpful bystanders, he was taken to the hospital where he is currently undergoing treatment under the Mukhyamantri Santwana Harish Scheme. Due to his injuries and the potential for medical complications due to his age, Kumar is currently being investigated and monitored before undergoing surgery for his fractures.
His family members are currently at work and unable to help him explain the incident, so Sampath Kumar struggles to make his voice heard and understood, but has not suffered for it. He is thankful to the hospital staff who have helped him, given him regular meals, and have not asked for any money. Though he does not know the scheme for road accident victims exists, he does note that there were no delays in his treatment at the hospital. When informed about MSHS, he was thankful for the scheme because his daily wage as a labourer would not be enough to pay for his treatment, costing over Rs. 21,000.
Devi; a 24-year-old, Female who worked as a housemaid before the accident
Devi’s case is reminiscent of Harish Nanjappa, the accident victim after whom the scheme is named. Like Nanjappa, she was hit by a luggage carrier while on a two-wheeler with her husband. While her husband was not seriously injured, Devi fell off of the bike and lost consciousness.
With help from bystanders, her husband called the 108 helpline for transport to a local hospital. After stabilizing her, this hospital transferred her to the present hospital for further treatment under the Mukhyamantri Santwana Harish Scheme.
Devi sustained serious injuries to her left leg, resulting in severe blood loss, which doctors say might have resulted in her death without prompt treatment. Though they were told about the scheme on admission into the hospital, Devi and her family do not know the details except that they are eligible for free treatment.
Though they make little money, Devi is a housemaid and her husband is a painter, they likely would not have been able to avail benefits for the accident under other government schemes. Belonging to an economically backward community, the family possesses no documents to avail government benefits and would not have been able to pay for the complex procedures, which are being covered under MSHS.
Immensely satisfied with the treatment, Devi is thankful to the hospital staff for saving her life and to the scheme for paying for the treatment without which, she has been told, she would have lost her life.
The work that SAST is doing to respond to road accidents in Karnataka is admirable. Hopefully organizations promoting road safety will lower the incidence of road accidents in Karnataka, but until then, SAST’s efforts provide immediate trauma care when preventive measures are not enough.