Last month Alan Almeida turned 24 but didn't have the kind of birthday party that a young 20-something in Mumbai generally has. His friends and family joined him at the hospital, one of the many he's called home since he met with a horrific bike accident in March this year. And Almeida is only one of the 706 motorbike accident cases already registered this year (figures till June).
The number of two-wheeler accident cases in the city has steadily been increasing over the last three years. Moreover, India tops the list among South-East Asian countries as the country with the most road accidents registered every year.
The alarming figures, as revealed in a World Health Organisation (WHO) report last year, will now be the focus of a meeting among health ministers of Asian countries, including India, at a WHO conference in Bangkok starting September 7 to discuss trauma centres that remain "inadequate, unorganised and inaccessible".
Take Ashtavinayak hospital in Panvel for example that receives up to 50 patients every month from road accidents on the expressway. "This is only 20 per cent of the total cases," said hospital director Akashdeep Agarwal.
The bigger problem, he says, is not the lack of hospitals but the government policy that mandates that accident victims must be taken to a civic or trust hospital.
"We've seen patients die within minutes of arriving here after they failed to receive treatment on time at a government hospital. If not death, there are severe complications like amputation or brain damage that we need to deal with," said Agarwal.
Alan's father Cyril also wonders what would have happened if his son had received treatment on time. "There's been no surgery yet but there's still considerable brain damage that one doctor suggested might have been avoided if an anti-clotting injection was given. However, we haven't pursued the matter. All we want is for our son to be better," said Cyril, who hopes to now pursue hyperbaric oxygen therapy for his son.
Almeida was travelling from Borivli to his home in Marol when he was hit by a truck in a head-on collision on the Western Express Highway in March this year. He opened his eyes in April but still hasn't been able to recover speech and complete motor skills. "We've just been praying," said his uncle, Alex, who has been scouting around trusts for funding Alan's treatment that has already exceeded Rs 7 lakh.
According to the National Crime Records Bureau of 2008, Maharashtra ranked second only to Andhra Pradesh as the state with the highest number of road accident deaths.