Ambulance drivers fleece patients

Ambulance drivers are a law unto themselves; and fleecing is the name of the game. Barring a few institutions, the drivers decide the fare; and when they do it, they charge fancy sums. There’s hardly any governmental intervention to regulate matters.

Instances of such fleecing are galore here. In a recent incident, shifting a patient from one hospital in the city to another covering hardly four km, the relatives had to pay nearly Rs 1,000.

Kochi corporation councilor P.S. Prakash says there have been several instances where patients from his ward at Karuvelipady were shifted to hospitals in the city, and at exorbitant rates demanded by drivers of private ambulances.

“Often, I have to bargain with the drivers. Some, knowing my position, agree to bring it down. In many cases, this does not happen.

Also the drivers decide the rates knowing fully well that the relatives of patients have no go but to pay,” he says.

“Many drivers charge extra and we are at the receiving end. In an emergency situation, we do not want to negotiate and are forced to pay,” said S. Aji who had to pay Rs 1,000 to shift a relative, an accident victim, from one hospital to another in the city.

“Ambulance service is a charity and not business. The government has not fixed any rate and does not levy tax on this.

However, the matter will be discussed with the district collector and necessary steps will be taken soon,” said deputy transport commissioner P.A. Sainudeen.

People from rural areas who have to depend on ambulance services of private agencies to reach multi-specialty hospitals in the city have little choice.

To overcome this, super specialty hospitals say they have a standard rate for ambulance service and their drivers are salaried staff. “We charge Rs .500 for the first 10 km for the cardiac trauma care unit ambulance, followed by Rs .50 for each additional km. For the normal ambulance, the rate is Rs .400 followed by Rs 30 per additional km,” said a spokesperson of Lakeshore Hospital.

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