The facility for free ambulances under the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) was flagged off by Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan on Saturday at Marine Drive. Of 937 ambulances that will cater to urban and rural population, 161 ambulances were launched on Saturday.
Chavan said, “The 108 ambulance service will aim to reach patients within 20 minutes after the call is made. The state government will bear the cost of the staff, equipment and medicines.” Health Minister Suresh Shetty said, “With the launch of EMS ambulances, we will save lives in the crucial golden hour.” While the public health department has already allotted the tender for 937 ambulances to Bharat Vikas Group (BVG) India Limited, the tender proceeding has been wriggled in controversy after GVK Emergency Management and Research Institute (EMRI) levelled allegations of irregularities in the process and subsequently filed a writ petition in the Bombay High Court after gathering information through the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
In a recent development in the case, the high court bench comprising Justice V M Kanade and Justice Girish S Kulkarni took suo moto decision to convert the writ petition into a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) on February 11, claiming that the matter involved a larger issue and concerned the entire state.
The matter first came to light after GVK challenged the state government’s decision to award 108 ambulance service contract to BVG. In its petition filed in December last year, GVK alleged that it was disqualified because it failed to provide the required European norms certification for patient-handling system. “However, that requirement was tweaked later by the government after it awarded the tender to BVG,” said Subodh Satyawadi, chief executive officer of GVK EMRI.
Nyaneshwar Shelke, chief operating officer of EMS, told the Sunday Express, “Till now there is no definite certification for the medical equipment of ambulance in the country. We decided to follow European safety norms and the bidder who satisfied the requirement was chosen. GVK did not qualify so they were
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Hanumant Gaikwad, BVG’s Managing Director (MD), said, “There have been allegations that we changed the make of vehicle, but that is not true. We offered two options to the government and they chose one, so the vehicle make and stretcher type was modified from meber-made to ferno-made. We have used the best possible quality for the stretcher and vehicle.”
In its petition, GVK claimed that while the letter of intent was awarded in March 2013, an agreement has still not been signed and a grant of Rs 80 crore was allotted to BVG in advance. However, Dr Satish Pawar, Director of Directorate of Health Services, said, “There were changes suggested in the pre-bid meeting. Once those changes are incorporated in the agreement, it will be immediately signed. Since it is a government procedure it takes time. BVG has done a good job and already rolled out several ambulances.”
Satyawadi has also alleged that government permitted BVG to change the make of model and kind of medical equipment used in ambulances. Pawar said, “The medical equipment equal to or higher than that prescribed in the tender conditions can be used. We have used a higher grade.”