PARADIP: The 108 ambulance service has once again come in for criticism following revelations of non-drivers driving the vehicles during transportation of patients and putting lives at risk. One such instance was reported from Sandhkuda locality of Paradip.
The family of 64-year-old Chanalabala Nayak had hailed an 108 ambulance to take her to Atharbanki hospital on Monday. However, once they discovered that the vehicle was being driven by an inexperienced person, they decided to send her in an auto-rickshaw instead.
The 108 ambulances are supposed to have three staff including driver, a helper and pharmacist. But the vehicle that was sent to carry Chanalabala to the hospital had just two.
When asked, the pharmacist present in the ambulance said in the absence of a driver, the helper was driving the vehicle. The ambulance service does not have the provision of additional drivers to replace those who often work for 24 hours at a stretch.
In such circumstances, the helpers take over and drive the vehicles putting the lives of patients and other motorists on the road at risk.
Medical Officer, Atharbanki Hospital Basant Kumar Rout said the staff of 108 ambulances are not under the control of the Health Department. The staff work under the supervision of Ziqitza Healthcare Limited, a private contract agency.
Meanwhile, Cluster Coordinator of 108 ambulance Sarada Kumar Behera said since the driver of the vehicle sent to Sandhkuda village was tired after night duty, he asked the helper the drive the vehicle. “It is illegal for a helper to drive an ambulance. Stern action will be taken against those found guilty,” he said.
Sources said out of 11 ambulances engaged at different community health centres in the district, eight do not have fitness certificates. The certificates were not issued by the RTO as the vehicles are not maintained properly.
A helper was found driving an 108 ambulance sent to Sandhakuda
Drivers of such vehicles are often overworked and have no replacement
Of the 11 ambulances engaged in CHCs across the district, 8 lack fitness certificate