Non-public ambulance operators in Jalandhar take Covid sufferers for a trip

Ajay Joshi

Today News Online Service

Jalandhar, April 28

Private ambulance operators have been charging exorbitantly to transport patients to hospitals or carrying bodies to the crematorium. While the 108 emergency service is for free, it is not readily available to patients owing to the rise in the number of patients. Anil Kumar, an 108 ambulance operator said there were around 22 such ambulances in the district and for the past 45 days, each ambulance was ferrying 6-8 patients every day. The private operators have been minting money out of the miserable situation due to the pandemic.

Ranging from Rs 1,500-Rs 3,000, the ambulance service operators are charging exorbitant rates in the town. Extra hundreds are added if the ambulances are carrying patients across the city borders. Unreasonable rates are also sought from people for carrying the bodies of Covid-19 patients to crematoriums.

Gagandeep Singh, a driver of the Oxford Hospital emergency services, says, the rates have multiplied after the surge in the patients. “Earlier, the one way rates for ferrying any kind of patient were between Rs 600-Rs 800. However, after the surge in Covid cases, the rates have gone up to Rs 2,500. We increased the rates in the first week of March, but the current rates are fixed considering the shortage of oxygen cylinders,” added Gagandeep Singh

When The Tribune correspondent posed as a patient and enquired about the rates, it was found that Rs 2,500 was being charged for any kind of patient, with or without need of oxygen.

Sandeep Singh (28), a resident of Guru Amardas Nagar, who, before calling a private ambulance dialed 108, said, he booked a private ambulance after there was a huge waiting period for the 108 emergency services. There was an outcry in the district due to surge in Covid cases and deaths, despite that, the ambulance services weren’t willing to reduce their rates. For admitting his father to a private hospital which was just 5 km from his house, he paid Rs 2,000. Similarly, kin taking bodies of their loved ones are being forced to pay over Rs 2,000 to any cremation ground from the civil hospitals.

Vikramjit Singh Mann, owner of Mann ambulance services, said, the added expenses due to PPE kits and inflated rates of high flow O2 cylinder have lead to a price hike. “The ambulance service charges have almost doubled, from Rs 500 to Rs 1,200. An extra of Rs 400-500 is demanded for providing oxygen supply.

Meanwhile, Dr Ashok Thapar, a district health department official confirmed that there was no price cap on the private ambulances in the district while the Civil Hospital has two government ambulances that charge Rs 10 per km.

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