Before elections were announced and the model code of conduct came into place, the Delhi government on January 9 issued tenders, inviting private firms to run and maintain its CATS ambulances.
The fleet will soon be expanded to over 250 ambulances. The existing fleet has 152 ambulances, of which 120 are just patient transport carriers with no equipment.
The move is part of efforts to modernise the Centralised Accident and Trauma Services (CATS) control room at the Rajiv Gandhi Superspecialty Hospital in Tahirpur on the lines of the Delhi Integrated Multi-Modal Transit System (DIMTS).
The Finance department cleared the proposal, initiated in August last year, on January 8 following which tenders were floated. Under the plan, the government plans to add 110 new ambulances – 100 basic life support and 10 advanced life support ambulances — by March.
Staff for a state-of-the-art control room and related jobs would be recruited by the private firm. While the ambulances and the control room would be owned by the government and CATS will pay the salaries, recruitment will be done by the private firm. “All old employees, permanent and contractual ones, would be retained,” CATS director Dr Vasantha Kumar N said.
Dr Kumar said the project aims to cut the response time and provide “home to hospital care” for patients. “Now, we largely cater to accident victims and provide transport to pregnant women before and after delivery. The present control room is also not very good,” he said.
The new control room, he said, will have video feed for monitoring all CATS ambulances and a caller location identification system to locate the caller.
“We were on the project from August last year but initially we were not getting requisite clearances from the Finance department for creation of posts of drivers and paramedics. They wanted us to outsource all the posts. Outsourcing just manpower did not make sense because we were planning a state-of-the-art integrated project to connect patients at their homes, our control room and the hospital,” a senior official in the Health department said.
States such as Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh too have engaged private firms to operate and maintain ambulances.
Before the Commonwealth Games in 2010, the Delhi government was keen to contract a private firm to run ambulances, but that plan was scrapped last minute when the ambulances were found not meeting standards days before the event.
Meanwhile, around 450 contract employees have opposed the move. “It is an undemocratic move since none of us were consulted and the move was hurried just before the announcement of elections. We are planning large-scale protests at the end of the month if the move is not rolled back,” a member of the Contractual Employee Association of CATS told Newsline.