BENGALURU: While the need for ambulance drivers has been high and the transportation and tourism industry has been hit hard, a lot of the drivers have decided to step in and fill the gap. They have taken up jobs as ambulance drivers but they have been victims of the social stigma attached to the virus.Drive along the road in Jayanagar, starting from South End Circle going towards Nanda Theatre, and you will spot a long line of ambulances. This is their new parking lot as they have been denied empty grounds and any other space in the city. Satish, a BBMP worker who administers South Bengaluru, reveals that they have been told to do so since “they work too close to the patients and are carriers.” Many of them haven’t seen their families in a long time and sought shelter in a building provided by BBMP.
The team coordinates through a WhatsApp group and once assigned work, the driver contacts the patient and takes it further. Mallikarjuna, who was a driver in the field of tourism, has been driving ambulances for four months now. He said: “Once we reach the hospital, we can’t immediately drop off the patients as we are told that there are no beds and have to wait for long hours or try at other hospitals. Sometimes we would end up being in the PPE suit for long hours.”
Once they return, each driver takes off the suit and safely disposes off the kit. This is followed by not only sanitising themselves but the van as well. While the kit is supposed to be one per case, the demand is so high that they end up working on 4-5 cases back to back before returning to base and getting a break, said Mallikarjuna.
Ravi, another driver who was also in the tourism sector, has been driving an ambulance for a week now. He shares how they work 24/7 and are always available on call. Another driver, who wished to remain anonymous, said, “This is our duty, we serve the public and do it with utmost dedication. But people don’t respect us. Instead they fear us.”