Recent amendments to the Provincial Motor Vehicles Act makes it mandatory for all motorists to give way to ambulances and other emergency vehicles, failing which the offenders are liable to pay a fine.
In order to highlight this landmark legislative change that not only impacts patient survival, but also prevents attacks against emergency health care, a good number of people attended an awareness session jointly organised by the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC), Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology (SZABIST) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), on Monday.
As per the amendments, a fine of Rs 600 will be imposed on the motorists who fail to give way to an ambulance or wilfully obstruct the passage of an emergency vehicle or do not maintain a safe distance while following an emergency vehicle or an ambulance.
The ICRC and SZABIST legal teams have worked with and supported the government authorities concerned in making the amendments to the Provincial Motor Vehicle Act possible. In 2015, a research conducted in Karachi by the ICRC and its partners revealed that one of the reasons for violence in hospitals is the delayed arrival of ambulances during emergency situations.
Speaking on the occasion, Syed Nasir Hussain Shah, the Minister for Works and Services Department who also held the transport portfolio and worked towards passing the amendments, said that passing the law is an important milestone, but this step will translate into safer roads for the injured, the sick and those in distress only if the law is respected and properly implemented.
Dr Seemin Jamali, the executive director of JPMC said that it's well known that timely help after suffering a critical injury or medical emergency can save many lives. "In over 30 years of experience, I have seen so many precious lives lost due to the ambulances not arriving in time," she added. The amendments to the Motor Vehicle Act will certainly improve the situation and lead to better chances of survival, she hoped.
While talking about the broader issue of violence against health care, ICRC's head of delegation in Pakistan Reto Stocker called the passage of the amended law a watershed moment. "Not giving way to an ambulance in itself is a form of violence and such obstructions can spell the difference between life and death. The ICRC, together with the government and its other partners, is committed to make health care in Pakistan safer for both the patients and the health-care staff," he said.
The legal team from SZABIST explained the amendments and the reasons they had been passed. Dr Shoaib Mir, Vice President of SZABIST in his address highlighted the partnership among JPMC and ICRC.
Similarly, DIG Karachi traffic police, Javed Ali Mehr, in his address reiterated the role of the traffic police in getting the amendments enforced and also stressed the need to educate the masses about these changes in the rules.
The speakers also highlighted the importance of wider dissemination of information in this regard, and stressed upon the role of media in making it possible.
Other notables in attendance included Commissioner Karachi, Iftekhar Ali Shelwani, former president Supreme Court Bar Association, Yasin Azad and DIG South Karachi police, Javed Odho. The attendees included representatives of the media, police, traffic police, transport authorities, health department, emergency medical providers and the medical fraternity.