A father claims to have run around for over four hours on Thursday night in Rajasthan’s Pali district looking for an ambulance that would accept Rs 500 or Rs 1,000 notes to take his newborn to hospital. By the time the family could arrange some Rs 100 notes, he said, the infant was dead.
Champalal Meghwal said he was yet to tell his wife about the death of their first-born. Hours after the son’s death, his wife Manisha was discharged from the government hospital in Pali and is back home at their village Lapod. “She keeps asking where our son is, and I keep telling her he is still at the district hospital undergoing treatment,” the 24-year-old said, adding he is afraid she may not survive the blow.
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“Our son was born at 4.11 pm on Thursday at Government Bangar Hospital, but had some difficulty breathing. About four hours after his birth, the doctors referred him to Jodhpur (about 80 km away),” Meghwal, 24, a farmer, said.
However, the three ambulances at the hospital were unavailable, and the hospital administration asked him to arrange an ambulance on his own.
“I found ambulances but they asked for Rs 6,000-Rs 7,000, all in Rs 100 and Rs 50 denominations. All my six-seven family members were at the hospital and we had some money, but most of it was in the useless Rs 1,000 or Rs 500 currency notes,” Meghwal said. “I pleaded with the ambulance staff and tried negotiating with them, but they refused to accept the currency I had.” The baby died at 12.30 am on Friday.
The Principal Medical Officer, Government Bangar Hospital, Dr M S Rajpurohit, admitted Meghwal had been told to arrange a private ambulance. He said the hospital had three ambulances but one was attached with the 108 ambulance service (the government-run emergency service through the 108 toll-free number), another had had an accident, while the third was in a poor condition and not safe to be used at night. “We have already sought an ambulance from the government while another, through the MPLADS fund, is in process,” he said.
There were “sufficient” private ambulance providers available in Pali, ready to transport patients at all hours, Rajpurohit added.
About the money they demanded from Meghwal, and that too in small denominations, the officer said, “We can only request these service providers to stick to the approved rate of Rs 8 per km. For Jodhpur, the rate is fixed at a flat Rs 1,100.”
Meghwal claimed that after no one agreed to take the money he was offering, he called up the owner of a farmland where he usually works, who in turn called up a social activist, Manish Rathore. “I spoke to my friends and we managed to arrange some money in Rs 100 currency notes and rushed to the hospital,” Rathore said.
Meghwal said by the time they had put together this money, around Rs 2,000, it was too late.
Pali District Collector Kumar Pal Gautam said they had orded an inquiry. “We have asked the hospital’s PMO (Dr Rajpurohit) to constitute a team of doctors to investigate the death and submit a report to us. Only then will we be in a position to say more on the issue,” Gautam said.