The citizens in Mumbai availing popular 108 ambulance service are set to experience tough times as the facility under the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) has landed in trouble. The noble venture was flagged off by then Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan in 2014. But now serious allegations have been raised against it on “contract terms” and viability due to the rising cost, according to a Times of India report. The report states that Maharastra finance department pays Rs 245 crore per annum to the company that maintains ambulances.
Being looked at as a game-changer in the way medical emergencies are dealt in Mumbai, the service may go under the Comptroller and auditor general (CAG) scanner, the TOI report states. While launching the service at Marine Drive three years ago, Chavan had said, “The 108 ambulance service will aim to reach patients within 20 minutes after the call is made. The state government will bear the cost of the staff, equipment and medicines.”
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Then state Health Minister Suresh Shetty had said, “With the launch of EMS ambulances, we will save lives in the crucial golden hour.”
In 2014 questions were raised over the trasparency over the move. The public health department had allotted the tender for 937 ambulances to Bharat Vikas Group (BVG) India Limited. However, the tender proceeding has been wriggled in controversy after GVK Emergency Management and Research Institute (EMRI) levelled allegations of irregularities in the process and subsequently filed a writ petition in the Bombay High Court after gathering information through the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
Now, additional chief secretary Vijay Satbir Singh told TOI that the tender conditions are being ‘re-looked at’ by the government.
Notably, free ambulance services under government-run helplines are being run in several states across the country. This service is popular among the common people even as it helps to provide medical relief to the lowest rung of the society who need it the most.