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Times Of India
22 June 2012

New Delhi: The government will roll out the country’s first project for cashless treatment of road accident victims in August on the Pathankot–Amritsar stretch – the national highway linking the Golden Temple and Vaishno Devi. In this project, the Centre will bear all medical expenses during the first 48 hours of hospitalization of road accident victims.

The road transport and highways ministry claims this will ensure "right to emergency care for all road accident victims". Before a countrywide rollout of the project, the government will run five such pilot projects.

The 108–km stretch of Pathankot–Amritsar NH–15 is used by around 75,000 vehicles every day, with one bus every 1.5 minutes. Between April 2011 and March 2012, this road recorded 2,410 accidents. Since a substantial number of victims are pilgrims, they have no local contacts, which is crucial for recovery after accidents. The government has fixed Rs 30,000 as ceiling for reimbursement. In case the victim stays in the hospital for three more days, the hospital will charge a ‘discounted’ treatment amount as per central government health scheme or AIIMS norms.

A third party administrator – nationalized insurance company – will operate and monitor the scheme, including recouping of expenses from the vehicle insurer. "Our aim is to save lives by providing ambulances at short intervals, tieup with the closest hospital so that victims get immediate care during the golden hour," said MoS (highways) Jitin Prasada.

The government is working out the seed capital for the project. "When we roll out the plan for the entire country, we have to bid out the projects, may be regionwise," said joint secretary (road transport) Nitin Gokarn. Once the system – network of Nehru Yuva Kendra volunteers, call centres, ambulances and hospitals – is in place, the response time of ambulances will come down to 10 minutes from the present 17 minutes.

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