Tirupati: Akshaya, 2, suffered fatal injuries after falling into a gravel hole in Doravarisatram Mandal of Kothapalli. She was rushed to a primary health care center in Naidupeta where she was declared brought dead. As the 108 ambulance refuse to ferry them home, the grief-stricken father carried the daughter's body on a bike.
Private ambulances were charging a bomb which the man could not afford. Private ambulance services are exploiting the situation and charging huge money from the patients.
Private ambulance union:
Not just Tirupati, but every district in the state has an ambulance union run by a group of drivers. They have been running the business within the hospital premises for years. Private ambulances charge Rs 50 per km, while the rate is Rs 25-30. They demand at least Rs 10,000-15,000 for a 50 km distance. Even if the families opt for a private ambulance outside the hospital, the union does not allow them.
Only 4 free ambulances:
In the Tirupati district, four Maha Prasthanam vehicles (only for the deceased) have started during the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) regime running up to a 100 km radius and operating only for 12 hours. The driver has to pick up the last case by 5 pm. Even if a person needs a free ambulance, the patient's attendants have to follow a cumbersome procedure: Write a letter and get signatures from the RMO. Many go for private ambulance services and shell out money from their pockets.
There are about 5-6 online ambulance operators in the district. "We charge Rs. 21 per km and Rs 18 for low-end vehicles. But if the family cannot pay due to financial constraints, we provide them with a free service. But the private ambulance services in SVR Ruia Government General Hospital are giving a tough time for the families in disguise", said Nanda Kishore, Managing Director of Tirupati Ambulance Services.
According to Kishore, the situation is similar in every district. Patients had to book service and take the patients to some distance and board an outside ambulance.
What do the officials say?
According to the District officials, they plan to introduce more free ambulance services to avoid such incidents. They are also likely to have a word with the ambulance union to slash prices.