The strike by workers of emergency ambulance service, 108, on Monday affected the emergency health services in the state. However, the staff resumed work in the evening.
Throughout the state, patients and their attendants faced inconvenience as the paramedical staff of the '108' ambulance service suspended work since Sunday evening following a tiff with the management of the private company operating the service.
Ambulance drivers, pharmacists and other staff, who struck work to demand a salary hike and revocation of suspension of 15 of their colleagues, resumed work only around 4pm after the intervention of the health officials.
Most of 240 ambulances in the state remained stationed. In Amritsar, a posse of policemen was rushed to Guru Nanak Hospital, which made a vain bid to take away the keys of the parked ambulances from the agitating staff. Tension mounted as the striking ambulance staff protested against the police move, after which the police used mild force to control the situation.
The workers joined the work after they were assured that their genuine demands would be met at a meeting between the company management and the agitating employees on Tuesday.
Talking to HT, 108 ambulance employees association leader Gaurav Chander said, "We have been told that a meeting with the company management would be held on Tuesday to resolve the issue. So we have decided to resume operations from Monday evening. Our demands are genuine."
A spokesperson of Ziqitza Health Care, the company that runs the service in Punjab, said, "A meeting has been called on Tuesday to discuss the demands of the ambulance staff."
The government has been spending around Rs. 28 crore every year and Rs. 7.67 lakh per day on running these services for the people of the state. The state government is spending Rs. 1.18 lakh per month on each ambulance for operational expenses.
In 2011-2012, the service had attended to 1.71 lakh cases, which means they have been handling 467 cases on a daily basis.
Dr Kamaljit Soi, vice-chairman, Punjab State Road Safety Council, wondered, "Who should be held responsible in case of casualities due to the non-availability of the ambulance service. The state government should fix the responsibility of those running these emergency services."