Ambulances on stand-by Photo: Rescue by Flare @RescueByFlare/Twitter
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Kenya: Emergency services in Nairobi can be hailed as easily as a cab on Rescue.co

Despite there being an above average number of ambulances in Kenya’s capital, most arrive in 2hours or longer, thus defeating the notion of emergency services. Rescue.co; a solution that is designed and functions like a ride-hailing app or food-delivery service; has created one of the largest networks of Kenya’s best first responders.

The response times for emergency services in Kenya are extremely slow, drastically decreasing patient chances for successful intervention. Ironically Nairobi is reported to have at least 100 ambulances in operation in a city of about 3 million which is well above the rate the World Health Organization recommends of 1 ambulance per 50,000 people. The availability of emergency services is therefore not the hindrance behind emergency care in Nairobi.

Rescue.co is an app powered by Flare technology whose tracking and dispatch features have put Nairobi’s best responders onto one map so they can locate and dispatch the closest ambulance within minutes. The available services on the app include: the advanced life support ambulance, basic life support and the medical taxi service manned by a paramedic.

Flare founders Caitlin Dolkart and Maria Rabinovich said at the time of the apps launch that their web-based service ‘Rescue’ responds to alerts round the clock.

“We wanted a service that saves lives via prompt response and we have tested the service, bringing down emergency rescue service to eight minutes from the traditional two hours,” Dolkart is quoted saying by the Business Daily.

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“Swift response means less health complications to a patient who receives first aid from paramedics and evacuation to a hospital of choice,” she said. The 40 ambulances are spread across the city according to locations.

Dolkart, who according to the publication studied her MBA at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) said the service has created a phone contact database for all participating hospitals where an alert is sent to a patient’s hospital of choice — if they are conscious — ahead of their transportation to the facility.

Sammy from Avenue Rescue with his #motorbikeambulance.Photo credit. rescue.co Emergency Services/Facebook

“We are averting a situation where a specialised doctor is called from other locations when an ill patient arrives at a hospital; with our medical alert service, the hospital is fed with information on the patient’s condition when the patient is on the way. Time wasted means loss of life or a patient going into a coma while swift response means cheaper treatment for the patient and the community,” said  Rabinovich.

“Competition among the various ambulance companies will mainly hinge on offerings such as presence of paramedics, type of vehicle, service level and price,” she said, adding that a patient’s condition and location will determine the type of ambulance released to the scene.

Challenges in emergency services

Although the app has streamlined the process of receiving emergency services, Rescue.co cannot however tackle the issue of cost. An ambulance can cost between 3,500 and 8,500 Kenyan shillings, about $35 to $85 an amount that is not manageable for the average person. This means the app is mostly targeted to the middle class or wealthy elite of Nairobi.

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