A life-support ambulance worth Rs 50 lakh, which the central government gave to Shaheed Babu Labh Singh Civil Hospital here, is hardly in use for highway rescue but regular in VIP service.
The authorities say they are short of money to buy diesel to run this “fuel-guzzler” round the clock, though they take it to camps and use it to ferry medical officers. Why not! It has an air-conditioner. It also has two electricity generators, three oxygen cylinders, floodlights, stretchers, a ventilator, electric cutters, and first aid kits — a complete life-support system. But who need it?
The Union Ministry of Road Transport gave it to the hospital at the inauguration of its new trauma centre on November 27, 2009. The ambulance doesn’t even have any emergency team or a driver. Its generators are idle for want of diesel. Since the state government took over the centre, it has released no money for its maintenance, apart from the monthly budget of Rs 6.5 lakh for the salary of contractual employees, which also is pending for two months.
On Wednesday morning, two people were killed and 10 injured in a bus-tipper collision on the Amritsar highway. His leg stuck in the wreckage, bus driver Ram Singh was crying for help. “Save me,” he kept pleading for 30 minutes, “I have kids at home.”
Dr BS Johal, who was called to the spot from Johal Multi-specialty Hospital, said if he had received a call sooner, his team could have amputated the driver’s leg and saved him. Electric cutters aboard the government ambulance could have helped bring him out. “What good is the ambulance if not used for rescue,” said Surinder Saini of Rogi Kalyan Samiti.
Civil hospital medical superintendent Dr Varinder Singh said: “This ambulance has very less average (fuel efficiency).” “Besides, whenever the chief minister or deputy CM visit the city, it is with their convoy. We use it to ferry medical teams to camps,” she said. “The money to run it comes from user charges.”
The logbook shows it was at the last functions of Union transport minister Nitin Gadkari and deputy CM Sukhbir Singh Badal when they laid the foundation stone of the Barnala highway four-lane project on Wednesday. In the past two months, it gone to the sangat darshan (public contact) programmes of chief minister Parkash Singh Badal in Adampur and Nakodar.
Last month, it also took nine people to Amritsar medical college and the PGI (Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research), Chandigarh. In seven years, it has covered only 81,892 kilometres. Rarely ever for rescue.