A man in Andhra Pradesh's Tirupati had to carry his son’s body out of a government hospital on a two-wheeler after the child passed away because of high prices demanded by private ambulances.
On the night of 25 April, 10-year-old Jesuva who was being treated at the Sri Venkateswara Ramnarayan (SVR) Ruia Government General Hospital passed away, reportedly due to a kidney-related illness. With the private ambulances outside the hospital demanding very high prices that were unaffordable for them, the child’s family members had to carry his body on a two-wheeler.
According to reports, the ambulance drivers at the hospital demanded Rs 20,000 for the 90 km distance to their hometown of Chitvel.
They also reportedly denied allowing other vehicles charging a lower price to transport the body. The boy’s family was forced to carry his body out of the hospital on a two-wheeler and reportedly shifted to an ambulance after crossing Tirupati.
Organised Profiteering by Private Ambulances
The incident has once again brought attention to the issue of organised profiteering by private ambulances at the Ruia GGH.
It has been alleged that the ambulance drivers often demand excessive prices and block access to other private vehicles willing to be hired for reasonable prices. According to the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) Chittoor district secretary Kandarapu Murali, the incident happened around 2 am in the early hours of Tuesday.
He said that the boy’s family, who belong to the Yanadi Scheduled Tribe, had a low income and struggled to find help transporting the body, as ambulances outside the hospital sought exorbitant rates.
“When someone came forward to help with the transportation for free, the private ambulance drivers attacked them,” Murali alleged, adding that CITU and CPI(M) have complained to the Tirupati District Collector demanding action against the profiteering of ambulances at government hospitals.
Ruia hospital superintendent Dr T Bharathi told 10TV that an inquiry would be done to find out if ambulances or vehicles coming from outside were stopped by the security staff or by the ambulance drivers at the hospital. When questioned why the pre-fixed rates were not being followed by ambulances at the hospital, Dr Bharathi said that they have complained to the police over the issue in the past, and have requested traffic police to keep pre-paid taxis or autos as a solution.
“We have instructed officials and security staff to follow the fixed rates. Still, since such atrocities are continuing, we will definitely file a police complaint and take action,” Dr Bharathi said.
She added that security staff will be instructed not to stop vehicles hired from outside from entering the hospital premises.
TDP Condemns the Incident
Condemning the incident, Telugu Desam Party (TDP) General Secretary Nara Lokesh alleged that the Mahaprasthanam (free hearse van service) set up by the previous TDP government had been made defunct by the YSRCP government, giving rise to profiteering by private ambulances. Ruia hospital superintendent Dr T Bharathi, however, told 10TV that the Mahaprasthanam vehicles, which operate under a public-private partnership, are only operational until 10 pm as per their MoU, and therefore, drivers usually don’t take up rides farther than 50 km past 8 pm. “We will request to keep Mahaprasthanam vehicles accessible at all hours, but the government will have to take that decision,” she said.
This is not the first time that the high prices demanded by ambulances at Ruia GGH has led to such an incident. Back in May 2020, an elderly man died while waiting for an ambulance, as the ambulance drivers working at the hospital prevented him from being taken in a vehicle called in from outside, while demanding an exorbitant rate from the patient’s family.
(Published in arrangement with The News Minute.)