Only seven ambulances availably for the three stations of Punjab Emergency Service (Rescue 1122) do not suffice the huge population of Sialkot district amidst huge number of fake calls that cause wastage of public money, rescuers’ time and damage their morale.

The three centres are situated at Katcheri Road, Pul Aik and Pacca Garha. A 1122 driver said, “We are facing behavioral problems in the field. People, who once consider us saviours, treat us like servants and fake calls for rescue has also become a routine.”

“We are overburdened due to staff shortage and everybody is working for more than the official duty but there is no reward by the public or government,” said a dispenser. “Above all, we are a disciplined force and taught not to utter a single word against the system,” said a technician.

Former MPA Ch Tahir Mehmood said, “It is difficult for the PML-N leadership to stop the applaudable service as it has shelved other projects launched in the Musharraf era. According to an employee, “All the three stations have just seven ambulances for over 3 million people of Sialkot and these do not suffice.”

He added, “Sialkot is one of the first 13 districts where the service was started but lesser patronage by the government is damaging the moral of the rescuers. The seven ambulances have expired their mileage limits but neither 1122 is funded for maintenance nor does anybody replace these vehicles, most of which go to workshop at least once a week.”

When asked, District Emergency Officer Syed Kamal Abid Shah said, “1122 is the world’s best and only rescue service which has been rendering free services for trauma, medical emergency, road traffic accidents, fire, building collapse, well rescue, water rescue and animal rescue. Though we have only seven ambulances, our response time is less than six minutes thirty seconds as compared to the rest of the districts where 1122 response time is 7 minutes approximately.”

He said, “Rescue 1122 was launched in 13 districts in 2008 and today we are covering all the 36 districts of the province rather we are expanding to tehsils as 24 new units at tehsil level are underway including Pasrur. It means that we have bloomed three times since 2008. Yes, we have problems but we are progressing and striving to do the best. Our ambulances were to be replaced after a hundred thousand kilometres mileage or three years but it has been seven years now. We use these vehicles in three eight-hour shifts. Thus, the ambulances have worked triple than the normal i.e. 21 years in just 7 years.”

The official said that in the Sialkot department, 103 out of 192 posts are lying vacant on which the government was recruiting through National Testing Service. This batch will be trained for six months and then they will fill in the short vacancies, he added. On the less number of ambulances, he said that the government of the Punjab purchased 125 new vehicles which have been given to other districts while new purchase was underway for Sialkot and other districts.

He said, “The biggest problem we face today is that people make obnoxious calls at 1122. Being a rescue service, we cannot waste time in inquiring and rush to the spot but most of the time it is a futile practice. In the last seven years, we have received around 3,600,000 calls for rescue out of which only 70,000 calls were real while the rest were fake or obnoxious which cause loss to the public resources and effected the moral of the rescuers.”

He said that the department was educating the people about traffic rules and first aid services for which the experts deliver lectures in public private schools of Sialkot. “We have also visited 100 top industries and trained around 25,000 people on rescue services,” he said.