Jammu: The ‘bribe for body’ scam of last year involving a hospital employee operating personal vehicles as ambulances, has prompted Government Medical College and Associated Hospitals Jammu, together with Transport Department and Traffic Police, to rein in the illegal ambulance mafia.
As per the official letter no: AHJ/2021/6101-6108 dated 22-01-2021, Dr. Shashi Sudhan Sharma, Principal and Dean, Government Medical College Hospital Jammu, has requested the Senior Superintendent of Police, Traffic Department Jammu to take necessary action against illegal ambulances and their operators.
Consequently, SSP Traffic has started challaning illegally operating ambulances, including those owned by charitable trusts.
“It is intimated that Medical Superintendent GMCH Jammu vide his letter no: GMCH/2020/14092-96 dated 19-01-2021 has taken up the matter of un-authorized ambulances and illegal parking of such vehicles in the Emergency Wing of GMCH Jammu. This institution has already suspended one of its official namely Shinda, Sanitary Supervisor and disengaged a casual worker for operating illegal ambulances in the institution. In this regard, you are requested to take necessary action under rules,” writes Dr. Shashi Sudhan Sharma.
It may be recalled that taking cognizance of the reports doing rounds in the media in December 2020 highlighting the alleged mishandling of a deceased COVID patient by hospital staff – particularly ambulance drivers and mortuary staff, in addition to demanding of ‘payment’ from family members for packing and transporting the body, Dr. Sudhan had ordered for constitution of an Enquiry Committee.
Following the preliminary findings of the Enquiry Committee, Dr. Shashi Sudhan Sharma had placed ShindaMashi, Sanitary Supervisor, under suspension with immediate effect.
Further, the said official had illegally modified and was operating two personal vehicles, owned by his sons, as ambulances in GMC premises, in violation of Motor vehicles Act.
While, Medical Superintendent, GMCH Jammu was directed to disengage his son, Virinder, a casual worker then posted in mortuary, with immediate effect, the action by Transport Department and Traffic Police to set things right for once and for all was awaited.
The rules clearly state that for a vehicle to be used as an ambulance, an application has to be filed with Director Health and then get the vehicle registered as an Ambulance with RTO office. But it has been found that private and public vehicles registered with RTO office as ambulances do not have necessary permissions from Director Health, and also lack essential medical equipment. They have mounted beacons and Red Cross logo, pasted ‘ambulance’ stickers on the vehicle to fleece gullible patients and their attendants.
“It can’t be denied that proliferation of ambulances, be it government or private, is good for the public. They are a part of healthcare services, carrying patients to hospitals and dead to the site for last rituals. Ambulance drivers are believed to be doing yeoman service, however, some unscrupulous drivers are out to flout rules and make fast buck. This not only affects the overall system, but also brings bad name to it. It has thus become necessary to keep a tab, rather crack whip on such elements,” says a hospital official.
He adds that the Transport department and Traffic Police need to be proactive against the illegal ambulance mafia, more so with the operationalization of dedicated 102 and 108 ambulance services.