A startup in Kenya is launching “Uber for ambulances”
In Nairobi, most things can be ordered from your phone—an Uber, or taxi from one of several other taxi hailing app companies, a boda boda driver to run an errand for you on his bike, and dinner from a restaurant across town or just groceries from down the street. Soon, Nairobians will also be able order an ambulance from their phones.
Getting to a hospital for a medical emergency can be a nightmare in Kenya’s capital. Ambulances, most of which are run by private companies, take on average two hours to arrive. The problem isn’t that there aren’t enough ambulances or emergency clinics. Nairobi has 20 emergency rooms and clinics, as well as at least 100 ambulances in operation in the city of about 3 million—well above the rate the World Health Organization recommends of 1 ambulance per 50,000 people.
But patients have to go through a tortuous process of calling a police dispatcher who connects them to an ambulance company or calling individual ambulance companies until they find one. The police emergency number often doesn’t work. Without navigation systems, ambulance drivers easily get lost. In February, a three-month old boy died while waiting for an ambulance for more than five hours.