SRINAGAR: People from south Kashmir are being made to pay for their patients, including firearm victims, to be carried in ambulances to the hospitals in Srinagar.
According to the people who used the ambulances recently, a patient is charged more than Rs 500 and an additional Rs 50 as hospital development fund for a drive to Srinagar.
Nasima, a patient from Bijbehara, was admitted to the Bones and Joints Hospital on Tuesday. Her son, Ashraf, who accompanied her, said they paid Rs 700 to the driver.
The drivers admitted that they charge patients for the service, stating that they do it on the authorities’ directions.
“We have been asked to take money from the patients referred to the hospitals in Srinagar. A trip to Srinagar costs Rs 1, 800, and patients have to pay for the fuel,” Mohammad Akbar Ganai, who works as an ambulance driver for the Directorate of Health Services Kashmir, Kulgam, told Kashmir Reader.
Ganai said he ferried four patients from Kulgam to Srinagar on July 27 for Rs 500 each.
Showkat Ahmad Magray, driver of ambulance number JK18A-1020 associated with Public Health Centre (PHC) Devsar, said he ferried three patients to Srinagar on August 8 for Rs 650 per person.
“We have been asked by the authorities concerned to charge the patients. I am only doing my duty. This money goes to the PHC in-charge,” he said.
On August 2, Abdul Hamid, another ambulance driver from Kulgam, said he charged Rs 600 each to four patients.
“This money is for the fuel expenses for travelling out of the district,” Hamid, whose ambulance number is JK01H-8112, said.
Doctor Muzaffar, in-charge of PHC Devsar, admitted that money was being charged from the patients referred to the hospitals in Srinagar. But, he said, it has been a practice for the last 10 years.
“Every time an ambulance travels to Srinagar, the patient has to pay for the fuel. These are the orders of the Directorate of Health Services Kashmir. It is nothing new,” he said.
He stated that the patients have to pay Rs 50 extra for the hospital development fund.
“If they are being asked to pay more money, we will take stern action against the drivers,” he said.
Director health services Kashmir, Dr Salim ur Rehman, however, said that he has no knowledge about the ambulances charging money.
“Ambulance service is free for every new mother and her child and firearm victims. There is no direction to charge the patients for fuel,” he said.