Emergency services get ‘no’ calls in Pune

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Emergency services across the city have been hit badly due to the ongoing deadlock between telecom service provider Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) and private telecom companies such as Airtel, Idea and Vodafone.

The public sector undertaking has suspended private cellphone connections to BSNL landlines stating non-payment of dues.

As a result, emergency numbers — right from police control, fire brigade, ambulance and hospital services — are not able to receive calls from cellphone users. In fact, many BSNL consumers are complaining that they are unable to make outgoing calls to these private networks as well.

Station officer Shivaji Mhamane at Bhawani Peth fire control said he had lodged a complaint with both the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) and BSNL for difficulties they are facing.

“One problem is that people are not able to get in touch with us. Secondly, when they call and we go to the spot, we have difficulty reaching the sites as we cannot even call them back for directions. We have faced these problems on the ground and its getting difficult to operate,” he said.

Hospitals and ambulance services are badly affected too, with patients complaining of not being able to get in touch in times of dire need. Dr Sujata Mallik, medical director of Ruby Hall Clinic, confirmed that patients were complaining of not being able to access services as many patients did not have a landline and calls from cellphones were blocked.

“The hospital administration is also facing a problem as we have a group SMS system through BSNL on which we inform senior doctors whenever a patient is admitted and needs care. Now we are calling up our doctors individually; so definitely there is loss of time in giving medical aid,” said Mallik.

The emergency care number for Jehangir Hospital’s ambulance services cannot be reached through cellphones and an irate patient who met with an accident and could not reach ambulance even called up media persons to complain, forcing the hospital to release a statement.

“We understand that BSNL has discontinued network interconnectivity with some of private network operators. Our medical emergency service (1066) depends heavily on BSNL support and patients trying to contact this number through mobile phones (other than BSNL) are unable to do so. Patients are very upset and, as interim measure for patients facing a medical emergency, we have dedicated a number, 8888851066, for emergency services,” said George Eapen, Jehangir’s chief executive officer.

“Many patients have come to hospital and complained that they couldn’t reach the number. As a temporary solution, we are dedicating a cellphone number for emergency services until this matter is resolved,” said Sainath Pradhan, general manager (projects) of Jehangir Hospital.

Not just emergency services, but important counselling lines like Childline are also facing problems. Volunteers at Childline Pune said in many cases of abuse, they haven’t been able to follow up with families.

“In one such case, in which a child reported abuse by a family member, we are unable to follow up. Despite repeated attempts, we are unable to contact the family of the child. We get the message that our calls cannot be connected,” said Anuradha Sahasrabudhe, director of Childline Pune.
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