HC raps railways for charging emergency medical facilities users

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Dec 12, 2014 22:26 IST

The Bombay high court (HC) on Friday rapped the railways for agreeing to provide emergency medical facilities at certain suburban railways stations and charging passengers for availing the service.

“Can this be a policy of a welfare state,” the division bench of justice Abhay Oka and justice Ajay Gadkari asked advocate Suresh Kumar, the counsel for the Railway. “You are under an obligation to provide the emergency medical facility and you cannot charge the passengers for that,” said the bench.

The court was referring to the ‘Golden Hour Surcharge’ clause on suburban railway tickets that appears in the policy guidelines adopted by the Railway administration to recover the expenditure incurred while offering emergency medical facilities to accident victims.

The judges said though they have limitations with regards to exercising their extraordinary discretionary jurisdiction when it comes to policy decisions, they observed in their order that the Railway administration will have to reconsider the decision to recover the expenditure from passengers.

The court was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by activist Sameer Zaveri in which he raised the issue of safety of suburban railway passengers.

During the course of the hearing, Kumar informed the court on Friday that the Railway administration has decided to set up emergency medical facilities at Kurla, Thane, Dombivli, Kalyan and Karjat on the central line. Emergency medical facilities will also be set up at Wadala, Vashi and Panvel on the harbour line and Churchgate, Mumbai Central, Bandra, Andheri, Borivli, Vasai Road and Palghar on the western line.

A doctor, nurse and an attendant will be deployed to provide emergency medical treatment to accident victims. Thereafter, the injured would be shifted to the nearest hospital having trauma care facilities.

‘Stations need advanced life support ambulances’
The high court on Friday expressed displeasure on the claim of the Railway administration and the state government stating that well-equipped ambulances are made available outside every suburban railway station in Mumbai.

According to a report of three court officials, appointed as court commissioners, the ambulances parked outside railway stations are basic life support ambulances and not well-equipped Advanced Life Support (ALS) ambulances, which specifically cater to accident victims.

Besides, the court commissioners noticed there were no ambulances at Mulund, Kanjurmarg and Vikhroli stations. At Borivli, although they found an ambulance parked outside the station, the doctor and driver were not present, and there was no doctor at all because of the doctor on duty had his weekly off.

The bench also opined that the railways would take at least six months to set up emergency medical facilities at major suburban stations.

It therefore directed the state government to consider providing dedicated Advanced Life Support (ALS) ambulances at suburban railway stations.

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