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Dhaka Tribune

TraumaLink emergency response teams reduce casualties on highways

These volunteers have already provided countless lifesaving services or aid, often getting accident victims medical care in the nick of time  

Update : 22 May 2018, 05:37 PM

A bus fell into a ditch when the driver lost control of it while giving space to a motorbike on Manikganj's Monno City road on the Dhaka-Aricha highway last week. 

The bus turned over, and many injured passengers began screaming and shouting from the inside of bus.

Within minutes, a volunteer team arrived on the spot and began the rescue operation. They rescued 20 injured passengers who were stuck inside the cramped bus.

“We were initially surprised because we did not know about such emergency response teams,” said Rafiqul Alam, a local man who witnessed the rescue. 

“The volunteers rescued the injured passengers quickly and sent them to the nearest health centre with the support of the fire service and the highway police,” he added.

Victims at an accident site | Courtesy

This volunteer team is from TraumaLink – a volunteer-based system that has deployed emergency response teams to highway accident sites since 2013. Though three passengers died in the aforementioned accident, the majority of the passengers were rescued quickly.

These volunteers have already provided countless lifesaving services or aid, often getting injured people to the nearest hospital within a critical window of time.

“If it is possible to rescue an injured person within a short time after a deadly accident on the highway, a life can be saved. Injured passengers have a high chance of survival if they receive treatment quickly,” said Esha Chowdhury, executive director of TraumaLink.

The Bangladesh government does not currently have a national emergency hotline number, which often creates significant delays in injured patients being able to access care. 

TraumaLink provides an effective way to connect these injured patients with trained first responders. 

At least 40,000 people were killed and around 60,000 injured in road accidents across the country over the last five years, according to the Accident Research Institute (ARI) of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (Buet).

Despite the fact that the Bangladesh government wants to reduce road casualties, such emergency rescue and first aid services are not widely available on Bangladeshi highways. 

During the month of April 2018, TraumaLink attended 29 incidents and provided emergency first-aid service to 68 patients who were injured at Comilla, Gazipur and Manikganj.

The volunteer-based service is now being operated over a total of 100km, 50km of which are on the Dhaka-Chittagong Highway near Daudkandi and Chandina, 40 km on the Dhaka-Aricha Highway near Manikganj, and 10 km on the Dhaka-Mymensingh Highway.

TraumaLink has an emergency hotline number managed by a 24-hour call center. Upon first response, they send a group of people to the spot. These people are recruited from the local community and are volunteers trained in basic trauma first aid.

A total of 433 volunteers are already working in areas covered by TraumaLink, and they have responded to over 500 emergency calls and treated over 1,000 injured patients so far.

TraumaLink has provided Emergency First Aid Training to over 800 people including their volunteers, university students, and members of youth organizations. They are now looking to expand highway operations all over the country. 

The primary founders of TraumaLink are Dr Jon Moussally, Ryan Fu, and Eric Dunipace from the Harvard School of Public Health; and Mridul Chowdhury, CEO of mPower Social Enterprises Ltd, according the TraumaLink website. 

Initially, with incubation support from mPower, TraumaLink started its pilot operations as a social enterprise on a 19km stretch of the Dhaka-Chittagong Highway in Daudkandi. During this time, TraumaLink received recognition from USAID Development Innovation Ventures and the mBillionth Award. 

After an 18-month phase of pilot operations, TraumaLink was established as a trust in Bangladesh in 2016, and began its formal operations on the Dhaka-Chittagong and Dhaka-Aricha Highways to work towards creating a self-sustaining model to reduce traffic casualties in Bangladesh.

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