Patients die as ambulances get stuck in Manila’s traffic

  • Patients aboard ambulances are dying with the worsening traffic situation in Metro Manila.
  • Medics recounted scenarios with patients who barely made it out alive due to doubled travel time on their way to their respective hospitals.
  • Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade Jr. reiterated the need to grant emergency powers for President Rodrigo Duterte to help solve the capital’s traffic woes as soon as possible.
Photo from Noel Celis/AFP

MANILA, Philippines—Manila’s traffic has been taking a toll not just on drivers and commuters, but for patients aboard ambulances racing against the clock to reach their respective hospitals.

Local news outlets citing Agence France-Presse (AFP) claimed that the gridlock in Manila is primarily caused by special lanes for emergency vehicles that are not enforced, outdated infrastructure, and local drivers are often unwilling or unable to make way — a situation experts say is causing patients to die en route.

“You feel empty. It is as if you were not given a chance to do everything in your capacity to help,” ambulance driver and paramedic Joseph Laylo told AFP.

Driver Adriel Aragon recounted how he lost a critically ill patient back in 2014 when it took 40 minutes to reach the hospital — the journey should have taken half that time.

“No matter how hard we honk, even if we use our siren, if the vehicles are not moving it doesn’t matter,” he said.

Five minutes before they reached the hospital the woman’s pulse disappeared. She was pronounced dead after they wheeled her into the emergency room.

At peak hours, Manila is clogged with idling cars — a 25-kilometer (16-mile) end to end drive through the main highway can take as long as three hours. Home to some 13 million, there is nearly one vehicle registered per person. 

Photo from AFP

The resulting gridlock costs the city $67 million daily in lost productivity, according to a 2017 Japanese government-funded study.

Aldo Mayor, public safety chief of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), blamed other road users, claiming that “some people simply do not care, as if they are the only residents of this world.”

He added that Manila ordinances concerning emergency vehicles, including a 2017 regulation that reserves one lane for them, are rarely enforced due to personnel constraints.

During the budget briefing of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) with the appropriations panel of the House of Representatives last week, Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade Jr. said that while it was possible to implement strategies to solve traffic, the course of action would definitely be slower without batting for emergency powers for President Rodrigo Duterte.

“If there will be no emergency powers, yes we can implement but the implementation will be slow. The President’s term is almost finished and we may not be able to resolve this,” Tugade said.

Sources: ABS CBN, The Manila Times, AFP

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