Tribune News Service
Jalandhar, August 5
The district administration has been airing concerns about private ambulances overcharging from patients, but if sources are to be believed, a number of unregistered ambulances plying in the district are the elephant in the room which everyone avoids talking about.
While less than 100 private ambulances/vehicles are registered with the Regional Transport Authority, estimates put the total number of vehicles being used to ferry patients in the district to over 100. Some say there are over 200 such vehicles plying in the district, but due to lack of a comprehensive database, the exact number remains a speculation.
While the RTA has about 100 ambulance/medical vehicles formally registered with it, there are 108 ambulances plying in the district. Baring this, eight more vehicles are employed in Jalandhar and various subdivisions or CHCs for ferrying patients.
While such vehicles can be seen parked at several prominent roundabouts, squares, thoroughfares and parkings near private hospitals, many of these are unregistered.
However, according to the DC and the RTA, an audit would be conducted soon and the database of existing medical vehicles was also set to be expanded.
A sources said: “There are private taxi drivers who label vans in the name of hospitals and there are religious bodies without hospitals of their own, which have ambulances plying. None of these unregistered vehicles have trained or specialised staff. They charge whimsical prices and sometimes drive vehicles very irresponsibly, which can endanger patients’ lives.”
Sources said at some institutions, compounders, attendants, security men among other personnel drive privately owned vehicles, which are pressed into service as ambulances. Dr Navjot Dahiya, president, IMA Punjab Chapter, said: “Barring six to seven private vehicles, none of the ambulances in the district have ventilators. The rest of these are more of patient transport vehicles than ambulances, as they lack basic equipment. However, in the times of Covid, the government should press the 108 ambulance service to full time transportation of Covid patients. Rather, the pressure is again on the private lobby, whose prices are being capped. There is one doctor/nurse, attendant and technician in such vehicles and the price of ferrying patients is exorbitant.”
Sources said there are ambulance services, which have also charged more than Rs10,000 from some patients.
The RTA has been holding meeting with ambulance drivers for the past some days and on July 30, the Jalandhar DC capped the prices of private ambulances ferrying patients in the district.
DC Ghanshyam Thori said officials have been asked to identify vehicles providing such services in the district whether they be associated with hospitals or private vehicles attached independently with hospitals. Vehicles ferrying bodies are also being identified, so that mortuary vehicles aren’t under pressure in the times of Covid. The RTA and Assistant Commissioner (GA) are looking into it and a detailed database update is in the offing, he said.
“As far as price capping is concerned, some private players had a grouse that price capped for multi-specialty vehicles with ventilators be increased from Rs15 per km to Rs20 per km. Once the matter is looked into, these prices shall be amended,” the DC said.
Secretary, RTA, Jalandhar, Barjinder Singh said: “We have been holding meetings with private ambulance drivers/ owners for the past few days. Some have an issued regarding the capping of prices and want charges to be increased on vehicles with ventilators. An amendment shall be made in this regard. As far as illegal ambulances are concerned, we shall be conducting an audit soon. We don’t have the exact number of vehicles plying in the district to ferry patients because there are many regional hospitals and those registered in the periphery. The exact number is difficult to tell.”
Database of vehicles to be expanded
- About 100 ambulances/ medical vehicles are registered with RTA
- Nineteen 108 ambulances, eight more plying patients in the periphery
- Due to lack of comprehensive database, exact number remains a speculation
- According to the DC and the RTA, an audit will be conducted soon and the database of existing medical vehicles was also set to be expanded
Sixth such meeting since June 6
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