Ambulance strike called off, but operators remain unhappy with hiked rates
Ambulance operators in the city called off their strike on Thursday after the district administration hiked the fares for private ambulances, officials said. However, the administration did not hike the fares as demanded by the operators, due to which they have threatened to go on strike from Friday if the rates are not revised again.
The deputy commissioner of Gurugram, Yash Garg, said that as per the hiked rates, fixed charges of ₹500, ₹750 and ₹1,000 have been set for distances up to three kilometres, between three and seven kilometres, and farther than seven kilometres, respectively. An additional charge of ₹25 per kilometre may be levied if the distance increases, he said.
Officials clarified that the distance is calculated at the time of booking and that charges cannot be levied as per the next higher slab.
According to Garg, now that the charges have been fixed, operators and drivers found demanding more will face strict action, with the cancellation of their registration as well as licences on the cards.
However, as per the rate list submitted by the Private Ambulance Association (PAA) to the district administration, a copy of which is with HT, the operators are demanding ₹3,500 for small vehicles for a distance up to 15 kilometres, with ₹16 per additional kilometre, while for larger vehicles, they are demanding ₹5,000 and ₹35, respectively. For advanced cardiac life support ambulances (ACLS), the association is demanding ₹5,500 for distances up to 15 kilometres, with ₹50 per additional kilometre, besides the charges for doctors and staff.
Vipin Kumar, the former president of the PAA, said, “If the district administration agrees to our rates, then we will ply ambulances. Else, we will protest and sit on strike from Friday. We will not agree to run on losses. Why should we?”
The association comprises 39 operators, who have 250 ambulances in the district.
Salina Macknight, the vice-president of PAA, said that the kilometres should be calculated from point to point and waiting charges for freezer ambulances should be set at ₹500 per hour. “For ACLS ambulances, the waiting charges should be ₹1,000 per hour. Oxygen charges would be extra and if anyone wants a doctor, then their charges would also be additional,” she said.
The association had been on a strike since Tuesday evening and on Wednesday, met officials in Chandigarh, who agreed to revise the fares, following which Prabhjot Singh, mission director, National Health Mission (NHM), Haryana, in an order, stated that it is necessary to fix the rate of hiring charges of ambulances to be used by people for transporting the patients and directed the deputy commissioner to act on it. “All deputy commissioners are to call a meeting with owners of private ambulances and union to decide rates. It is decided by higher authorities that rates decided by deputy commissioners will prevail,” he had said.
Yash Garg, the deputy commissioner, said that they had received the order and that the final rate list was sent. “We are trying to resolve the issue so that people do not suffer and can get timely help,” he said.
The district administration, in its order on Thursday, noted that private ambulance drivers/service providers are charging exorbitant rates from the citizens for transporting the patients within or outside the state. Due to this, an additional financial burden is being borne by citizens during the crisis of Covid-19, which is a matter of serious concern, it stated.