Ambulance operators threaten to shut services due to price cap

A day after the regional transport authority (RTA) imposed a cap on the private ambulance charges for ferrying Covid-19 patients and victims, ambulance operators in the city said they will not run their ambulances on Wednesday unless the cap is removed or at least increased
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Updated on May 04, 2021 11:41 PM IST
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By, Gurugram

A day after the regional transport authority (RTA) imposed a cap on the private ambulance charges for ferrying Covid-19 patients and victims, ambulance operators in the city said they will not run their ambulances on Wednesday unless the cap is removed or at least increased. Operators also submitted a memorandum to the deputy commissioner in this regard on Tuesday.

Rajesh Yadav, president, Private Ambulance Association (PAA), said that the price fixed by the transport department is inadequate to run their services. “We will not run our ambulances with the prices imposed on Monday. We are ready to donate these ambulances to the district administration as we will suffer huge losses and will not be able to make our ends meet. Our drivers are risking their lives and handling Covid-19 patients and their bodies. The fixed amount is the same as it was 20 years ago. There has been inflation on all products and services, but the transport department wants us to operate at the same charge,” Yadav said, adding that they are ready to sell their ambulances and the drivers will look for other jobs if the prices are not revised.

He said that according to the new policy, they will hardly get 150 for a trip.

As per the two-page memorandum sent by 10 members of the PAA to Dr Yash Garg, a copy of which was seen by HT, operators said they have been providing ambulances to the health department officials and other senior officers for free, but now, they are facing harassment. “Last year, we had provided ambulances to the civil surgeon for two months, seven ambulances to a subdivisional magistrate, and a bill of 13 lakh is still pending. We have been running from pillar to post to get our dues, but no one is responding. We want to help the authorities and continue our operations, but who will think of us, and how can we run the operations after suffering a huge loss?” the memorandum stated.

However, RTA officials said that the operators are taking advantage of the situation and threatening to stop operations, and that the authority will not revise the prices.

Dhaarna Yadav, secretary, RTA, said they are not aware of any strike, and the fare has been fixed considering the situation of the people, as the ambulance drivers and operators were fleecing them. “We have fixed the fare per kilometre to ensure that the people are not extorted, and the prices be transparent. They were charging 10,000 for five kilometres, and the people had no other option than to pay them. This was a much-needed step, and we will ensure that there is smooth functioning of ambulances across the city,” she said.

Yash Garg, the deputy commissioner of Gurugram, said the authority will look into the matter. “We will resolve this issue at the earliest,” Garg said.

Salina Macknight, the vice-president, PAA, said that drivers are taking a huge risk as relatives of Covid-19 victims request the drivers to complete the formalities. “All the private ambulances were parked on Tuesday, and we are not taking any more bookings. Our drivers have tested Covid-positive, their treatment and hospital expenses are borne by us. We are paying for their food and lodging and are ensuring, after each patient is shifted, that the ambulances are cleaned and sanitised properly,” Macknight said.

There are 39 private ambulance operators and nearly 250 ambulances in the city.

Members of the PAA members said they invested more than 30 lakh to get advanced life support (ALS) ambulances and nearly 12 lakh for basic life support (BLS) ambulances, and are still paying the monthly instalments. Along with a minimum salary of 20,000 to each driver and incentives to transport patients and dead bodies, PAA members said they are facing a huge problem.

On Monday, HT reported that ambulances were demanding 20,000 to 30,000 to transport patients to private hospitals within a five-kilometre radius, while for outstation transport, the rates went up to 1.5 lakh. As per the caps imposed on Monday, an ALS ambulance can be hired at a maximum of 15 per kilometre, and a BLS ambulance for 7 per kilometre.

Vipin Kumar, former president, PAA, said amid the surge in Covid-19 cases, the drivers have been working for over 14 hours a day. “We have ferried hundreds of Covid-19 patients since April, keeping our fears of contagion aside. A 12-hour shift has turned into a 16-hour shift. Our men are continuously working for shifting bodies. With this amount, we can’t even fill petrol in the vehicles,” Kumar said.

The PAA members also alleged that the fare imposed by the transport department was based on vehicles bought by the government, and for which maintenance and instalment costs are not considered.

Private ambulance operators also alleged that they were buying oxygen cylinders in black as they were not being allowed to get them refilled at the designated stations for the past eight days.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Leena Dhankhar has worked with Hindustan Times for five years. She has covered crime, traffic and excise. She now reports on civic issues and grievances of residents.

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