(SRI LANKA Mar 6, 2009) Medical Teams International, together with representatives of the Sri Lankan government, the deputy Ambassador of the U.S. and other dignitaries, has launched an emergency ambulance service and communications center in Jaffna, Sri Lanka, in order to expand emergency services and critical care inside this south Asian country. The center will provide a 24-hour emergency 1-1-0 phone number.
“Now, in case of a life-threatening emergency, 600,000 residents can call the 1-1-0 hotline for an ambulance,” said Dr. A. Ketheeswaran, the Regional Director of Health Services. “We have coordinated all available ambulances in the Jaffna District to improve access to lifesaving emergency care.”
Medical Teams International also is providing five emergency kits with medicines valued at more than $2.1 million to serve the northern part of Sri Lanka. “These medicines are used in partnership with the Ministry of Health as they respond to internally displaced people,” said Joe DiCarlo, International Regional Programs Director for Medical Teams International. “This surge of equipment and medicines will allow the Ministry of Health to redirect its internal supplies to meet new demands in health care provision.”
James Moore, Deputy Ambassador of the United States of America, placed the inaugural 1-1-0 call to the communications center, after he praised Sri Lanka’s improvement in emergency care, decreasing death and disability. The service also is available in Colombo, Kandy, and Galle. In preparation for the expansion into northern Jaffna, more than 100 people have received training as emergency medical technicians. More than 650 nurses and doctors also have been trained in advanced cardiac and trauma care.
Medical Teams International has instructed more than 12,000 Sri Lankan people in basic first aid during the past four years. Thirty-three ambulances have been upgraded with life support equipment and supplies. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID-OFDA) funded the projected. The United Methodist Committee on Relief administered the emergency program.
“The hope is that in Sri Lanka – and other developing nations – emergency care will be available to all, so people won’t die needlessly,” says Paul Bollinger, the Emergency Medical Services Senior Advisor at Medical Teams International, who authored much of the curriculum for the project now used in 10 countries worldwide.
Many emergency technical services workers from the Northwest have volunteered by providing training for this service in Sri Lanka as well as here in Oregon and Washington on an exchange trip last summer – making Sri Lankan’s national program possible today.
Since 1979, Medical Teams International has shipped more than 1.2 billion in antibiotics, surgical kits and lifesaving medicines to care for 35 million people in 100 countries around the world. More than 2000 volunteers meet the needs of people worldwide each year.