Colombo, July 28 (NIA): The Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickemesinghe on Thursday inaugurated an Emergency Ambulance Service (EAS) to be jointly run by the Ministry of Health and India’s GVK EMRI with an Indian government grant of US$ 7.6 million.
The first of its kind in Sri Lanka ,the EAS uses State of Art facilities, which will be available to one and all, free of charge. Anyone wanting the EAS can call the hotline 1990 and an ambulance, which is a mini ICU, will be there on the spot in 30 minutes. The operation of the fleet of 108 ambulance vehicles, supplied by the Tatas, will be coordinated and directed from a command and communication centre located at Rajagiriya in the outskirts of Colombo.
The service will initially be restricted to the Southern districts of Galle ,Matara and Hambantota, and the Western districts of Colombo, Gampaha and Kalutara. But it will be extended to other districts later.
Initially, there were to be 88 ambulances, but the proprietor of GVK EMRI, Dr.G.V.K.Reddy, announced on Thursday, that he would personally gift 20 more to take the total number to 108.
Speaking on the occasion, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said that by agreeing to fund the project, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has earned “spiritual merit”, as in Buddhism and Hinduism, the most spiritually meritorious deed one can do is to nurse a sick person or save a life.
Wickremesinghe further said that the ambulance project is a good augury for closer ties with India and that Sri Lanka should tie up with India economically in order to develop itself.
The Sri Lankan Prime Minister is pushing for the signing of the Economic and Technical Cooperation Agreement (ETCA) with India by year end, despite widespread opposition to it from sections of Sri Lankan businessmen and professionals who are feeling threatened by an influx of Indian personnel and goods. But Wickremesinghe would like Sri Lankan industrialists to become part of the Indian supply chain and grow together with their Indian counterparts.
Health Minister Dr.Rajitha Senaratne described the inauguration of the EAS as a “historic event” because the EAS will be the first of its kind in Sri Lanka. Pointing out that may deaths take place for lack of facilities to rush the wounded or the sick to a hospital in time, Senaratne said that in this sphere too, India has come to Sri Lanka’s help.
The Health Minister deprecated the tendency among sections of the Sri Lankan intelligentsia to spread fears over contacts with India and Indians. He said these people forget that Sri Lankans owe to India their food, clothing, music, arts and most importantly their religion. India is a holy land as it gave Buddhism to Sri Lanka.
“No matter what, Sri Lanka and India can never be torn asunder,” Senaratne declared.
Deputy Foreign Minister Dr.Harsha de Silva, who saw through the deal to get GVK EMRI to come to Sri Lanka, said that the idea of having a State of Art Emergency Ambulance Service came to him when a friend of his had a bad accident in a remote area. Ingenious methods had to be devised to get the victim to the hospital in time because no ambulance was available.
“It was then that we decided that this should not happen again,” Dr. de Silva recalled.