Updated: May 3, 2021 12:32:08 am
EVEN THOUGH the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) claimed that they have enough ambulances to deal with the ongoing Covid-19 crisis, several private ambulances in the city have stepped in, considering the huge workload.
The private ambulances are being used, sometimes at rates as high as Rs 1,000 for a kilometre, by families to ferry Covid-19 patients to hospitals/Covid care centres for oxygen or carry the bodies of Covid victims to nearby crematoriums. On the other hand, the BMC has asked people to call 108, 1916 or any war room number to avail of their free ambulance service.
When The Indian Express enquired with private ambulances outside five hospitals in Mumbai, including KEM Hospital, Sion Hospital and Nair Hospital, it was found that the ambulances were charging heavy prices.
Outside Sion Hospital, a private ambulance driver usually charges Rs 4,500, which comes down to Rs 3,300, if bargained. This hefty amount a family has to pay to carry a Covid victim’s body to the nearby crematorium, which is just 3.5km away. However, the BMC provides the same service free of cost.
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Since all BMC ambulances remain occupied during peak hours, causing delay to the process, private ambulances come to the rescue with the exchange of a quick buck.
For a 13-km ride, which takes barely 23 minutes from Andheri to Sion Hospital, the private facilities charge Rs 6,000 for an oxygen ambulance and Rs 13,000 for an advanced life-support ambulance.
At KEM Hospital, for the same distance, the private facilities charge Rs 4,500 for an oxygen ambulance and Rs 9,000 for an advanced life-support ambulance. Some private hospitals in south Mumbai have tie-ups with private ambulance service providers.
For a 12-km ride, from Santacruz to Parel, a private ambulance charges Rs 3,500, while an advanced life-support ambulance costs Rs 7,000.
Mahesh Narvekar, OSD, disaster management, BMC, told The Indian Express, “We have more than 600 ambulances for Covid-19 patients in Mumbai. The transport department is helping us to acquire ambulances. Till now, I have not received any complaint on unavailability of ambulances. People should call 108 or 1916 or any war ward room to get the free service. Every ward has been given 20 to 25 ambulances.”
He added, “We are using Innovas to carry those with mild or moderate symptoms and we have other ambulances to carry the critical patients, who need oxygen. All ambulance services are free.”
On April 23, as Covid-19 cases peaked in Mumbai, the BMC received 59 ambulances, including 32 oxygen ambulances, from the transport department, said a transport department official.
“On Saturday, we received total 125 calls for oxygen ambulances from 24 wards. We have 41 oxygen ambulances for Covid-19 patients. These 41 ambulances carried 125 patients to hospital or Covid care centre,” said Ashish Yadav, 108 zonal manager for Mumbai, Maharashtra Medical Emergency Services.
The government had capped the prices of private ambulances in July last year but the BMC disaster management and 108 ambulance services have no clarity on the capped prices of oxygen ambulances.
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