All work and no pay: AP's 108 ambulance drivers struggle to make ends meet

Their vehicles were replaced with advanced life-supporting system technology, but despite working 24 hours, the government is unsympathetic to their problems

By Sri Lakshmi Muttevi  Published on  23 May 2022 11:10 AM GMT
All work and no pay: APs 108 ambulance drivers struggle to make ends meet

Amaravati: For three months, Srinivasa Rao, a 108 ambulance driver, has not received his salary. The only question he is posed every morning by his landlord is when he will pay his rent. He has been forced to take loans to manage his monthly expenses. Srinivasa Rao is among the hundreds of 108 and 104 ambulance contract employees in Andhra Pradesh who have not received their salaries for months.

AP has 3,400 (108) ambulance employees and 2,400 (104) service employees. The ambulance drivers struggle to save themselves from huge debts. Their vehicles were replaced with advanced life-supporting system technology, but despite working 24 hours, the government is unsympathetic to their problems. The AP 108 Contract Employees Union submitted a letter to Chief Minister Y.S Jagan Mohan Reddy with their demands.

No salaries for 3 months

These employees who worked hard during the COVID-19 pandemic to save lives have been working without salaries for the last three months. According to the employees, they were promised 40% arrears every year but it has been two years and they haven't got any hike. "The government is under the assumption that we are unaware of all these things. Aurobindo Emergency Medical Services (AEMS), an emergency management service in India, is not responding to our demands. It is not even taking the issue to the government. No official ever informs or discusses our problems," said Rao.

The situation is worse for 104 service employees working in rural areas. The mobile unit with a consulting doctor and mobile laboratory works 24X7 to provide health care in rural areas. However, the fund crunch is affecting their work. "I've been staying in a rented house for two months. I haven't received my salary and my landlord regularly asks me for rent. When I asked my parents who are staying in another city to send money to pay rent, they asked me about my salary. We have been working day and night, running during emergencies, but no officials respond to our calls," said Bharathi, a 104 service employee at Makavaripalem.

Union demands justice

According to the state treasurer of AP 108 Contract Employees Union, Malla Srinivasa Rao, this has been the situation for the last one year. "Every time we write a letter, the management or the state government promises to solve our issues. But after a few months, the issue is ignored," he said. He added, "Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy announced dividing the employees into two cadres – emergency medical technician (EMT) and pilot. But no such thing has happened. "A total of 28 employees died due to COVID-19, accidents, and illness in the last year but no ex-gratia was provided. Even if a lorry driver dies, his owners will pay some money to the employee's family. But, we don't get a penny," he said.

No 'golden hour' concept

108 ambulances are meant for the 'Golden Hour' cases which is the crucial one hour to prevent deaths following a traumatic injury. But the state has almost ignored the golden hour concept. According to the Union members, the state has around 730 ambulances, but a majority of them are used for referral purposes, i.e., ferrying patients from one hospital to another. "Especially in rural areas, ambulances are sent to the city on referral cases. If there are any road accidents or pregnancy cases that needed to be treated

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