Private ambulances ‘fleecing’ Covid patients - ECAS Punjab

Private ambulances ‘fleecing’ Covid patients

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Sameer Singh

Tribune News Service

Bathinda, September 14

A Covid-positive man from Bhucho Mandi had to cough up Rs 15,000 just to reach hospital. After the condition of Gurnam Singh (name changed), a Covid-19 patient from Bhucho Mandi in Bathinda, deteriorated, he was referred to Government Medical College and Hospital, Faridkot. But his family members were left distraught after one of the private ambulance service providers stationed inside the government hospital asked for Rs 15,000 as travel charges to carry the patient from Bathinda to Faridkot (approximately 80 km), whereas as per rates of government-run ambulance, the travel charges for the same distance is merely Rs 1,600 (Rs 10 per km).

Since Gurnam’s condition was critical, his family members were coerced to shell out Rs 15,000 albeit taking credit of Rs 10,000 from a relative. Citing sanitisation of vehicle and vulnerability to the virus transmission, many private ambulance service providers have been minting money at the expense of Covid-19 patients. Taking a serious note of the issue, Supreme Court has recently directed all the states to fix reasonable charges for providing ambulance services to Covid patients.

Surprisingly, as against a rate of Rs 10 per km being charged by government-run ambulance service, many private ambulance service providers are charging anywhere between Rs 150 and Rs 180 per km. On a reality check conducted by this correspondent, private ambulance service providers at the Civil Hospital and those operating in the city demanded Rs 10,000 to Rs 15,000 to ferry a Covid patient to Faridkot.

On being asked as to why they are charging exorbitantly, a majority of them said they had to wear PPE kits (from own pockets), their ambulances had oxygen cylinders and they fully sanitise the vehicle.

Deputy Commissioner B Srinivasan said, “The matter is not in my knowledge. I will get it checked and take necessary action accordingly. I will talk to the Civil Surgeon.”



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