Srinagar, July 24:
In a pioneering move to provide accessible healthcare to yatris during the ongoing Amarnath Yatra, the Health Department Kashmir has introduced horse ambulances, a unique idea suggested by Director Health Services, Dr Mushtaq Ahmad Rather. The pony ambulances act as additional facilities accompanying the yatris throughout their journey to the holy cave and back, ensuring immediate medical attention for critical patients.
With all necessary health care arrangements already in place along both the Baltal and Pahalgam routes, these horse ambulances serve as an innovative method to handle emergencies on both sides of the pilgrimage. Each horse ambulance is equipped with first aid, drugs, emergency kits, and oxygen cylinders, while trained paramedical staff and horse riders remain with the ambulances to attend to patients.
Dr Mir Mushtaq, the spokesperson for Directorate of Health Services Kashmir, expressed the success of this initiative, which has significantly reduced the time taken to shift patients between facilities. The pilgrims, who embark on their journey riding horses, have lauded this move as it provides them with essential medical assistance, sparing them from any discomfort during the challenging trek at high altitudes.
"We can't establish health facilities everywhere, so between two facilities, this is the most appropriate option considering the mountainous terrain," Dr. Mushtaq stated. The pony ambulances have proven to be effective in saving lives and have garnered appreciation from the yatris.
The health department has taken further steps to improve this service by identifying and keeping special and healthy horses to operate the pony ambulances. Plans are underway to provide Basic Life Support (BLS) training to horse riders so that they can manage critically ill patients effectively.
During the Amarnath Yatra, which attracts thousands of pilgrims, the pony ambulances travel separately with the yatra groups as they make their way to the holy cave via the Baltal and Pahalgam routes. More than 2,900 people, who transport pilgrims on ponies, pithus, and palkis during the Yatra, have registered for extending their services before the annual pilgrimage.
The Amarnath Yatra, leading to the shrine situated at an elevation of 3,880 meters in the South Kashmir Himalayas, commenced on July 1. Pilgrims can choose between the traditional 48-km route through Pahalgam in South Kashmir's Anantnag or the shorter 14-km, albeit steep, Baltal route in Ganderbal district of Central Kashmir.