We are really amazed to hear that an ambulance service provided by Lakshmipur district administration can be availed through a mobile app. According to reports, the Lakshmipur district and upazila administrations used their own funds to purchase the ambulances – currently they have 10 ambulances to cover the 58 unions in the district – and to create the app, called “Shopnojatra” , which is now available on Google Play. Shop for locals. All they have to do is download it to their Android phones and call a number listed there to get the life-saving service.
Such an initiative is particularly important for a country like ours, where people are often deprived of emergency health care, either because the upazila health centers do not provide these services, or because the health centers are kilometers from the villages. In the majority of emergencies, patients have to be taken to district or divisional hospitals for treatment, but getting an ambulance in these remote villages is both difficult and expensive.
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But now Lakshmipur residents can get this emergency service within 10 minutes of calling, and the cost is also low compared to other government and private ambulance services. Shopnojatra ambulances have transported at least 358 patients to different hospitals over the past nine months. Although the main objective of Shopnojatra was to provide an ambulance service to pregnant women and new mothers with the aim of reducing maternal and newborn deaths, anyone in a medical emergency can now benefit from these services.
The Lakshmipur district administration has set an incredible example in bringing health care to people’s doorsteps. They have shown us that change is possible if those who care about people’s well-being are ready to take the right initiatives. We hope that other district authorities will follow in Lakshmipur’s footsteps and take similar initiatives for the greater public good. It won’t cost them too much, as an app can be developed for just 50,000 Tk, and the cost of the ambulance can be covered by their annual budget allocations.
However, the question remains how the poor can buy the expensive smartphones needed to download the app. There is also a solution for this: community health workers as well as those in the community who have smartphones can download the app and help those in need.
Therefore, we believe that nothing should prevent other districts from taking such citizen initiatives.