Monday, September 25

Ambulances from Punjab active outside Jammu hospitals, touts allegedly hand-in-glove with staff



JAMMU: Taking advantage of emergent situations, the touts linked with private hospitals from the neighbouring state of Punjab, allegedly having a nexus with a section of staff, are active outside hospitals in the Jammu city with ambulances on ready mode to shift the patient in need to the branded health institutions outside the Jammu and Kashmir.

Well-placed sources in the Health Department said that touts representing big names in the health sector are allegedly closely associated with staff employed in the Government Medical College and associated hospitals and sounded alert about critical patients with details including cell phone numbers and the diagnosis for swift action on their part.

“If someone has noticed, the Critical Care Ambulances (mostly of Punjab registration) are often seen parked outside the Jammu GMC, Super-Specialty Hospital, SMGS and other associated hospitals, waiting for a call from the commission based network following which, the touts contact in distress attendants,” sources added.

Several touts in such a situation are feeding various private hospitals in the neighbouring state of Punjab as they are active outside the hospitals to trap the attendants looking for better treatment for serious ailments.

“On an average, two to three patients prefer to move out of Jammu for treatment and some emergency cases are also referred,” they said adding that such ambulances, mostly neither registered with private hospitals in Punjab nor owned by them but facilitating only on commission basis.

“Working for the past so many years, touts also have a deep-rooted network within the health department,” sources added asserting that allegedly some staff in the hospitals, hand-in-glove with them, manage or convince the patient of getting treated in selected private hospitals outside Jammu and Kashmir.

“Ambulances having registration numbers of Punjab can often be seen waiting outside the hospitals and the attendants desired to shift patients outside for treatment, need not to wait for long as the facility is available at the doorstep,” sources said.

Notably, this practice mushroomed a lot during the COVID pandemic and many patients having chronic health issues and tested positive were shifted to private hospitals in Punjab.

The touts as per sources, in advance circulate contact details, schedule about availability of facility in the hospitals, sources said and added, “once they get consent from the attendant, the ‘just a call away’, ambulance facility is made available in a short time.”

“The unregistered ambulances after dropping the patient with attendants to the identified private hospital return to continue with the practice,” they revealed.

Many passenger tempos and cabs are altered as private ambulances, mostly owned by the touts or the contractors operating the nexus, they said, adding that some such vehicles do not have ICU facilities to provide advanced treatment to the patients with serious illness en route to the hospital.

“As soon as the patient boards the ambulance, messages are flashed to recognised private hospitals with full profile of a patient like disease, diagnosis, treatment, clinical condition after which patients are shifted to the hospitals offering higher commission to the touts,” sources revealed.

“How, why and on whose directions these ambulances and touts are flourishing business in health and medical education, need to be probed,” a senior faculty in the health department said.

“At GMC and SSH, good infrastructure is available but still, people prefer to move out for treatment. They need to trust us, our qualified doctors,” a senior faculty pleading not to be quoted said, appealing that by promoting such practice, they are not only being looted of their hard money but also raising a question mark on the capability of our professional doctors.

He also added that with the  ‘Ayushman Bharat’ card issued under the Prime Minister’s Sehat Scheme, thousands of patients are treated free of cost. They all are hale and hearty and respond well to the treatments but still those who can afford, preferring the treatments outside, is their choice.

Pertinent to mention here that in 2021, with a motive to crack the nexus between the private ambulance operators and some ‘corrupt’ elements operating in the Government Medical College and Hospital, Jammu, the authorities concerned lodged a complaint with the Regional Transport Officer (RTO) Jammu seeking action against such erring operators earning bad name to the health institution in Jammu and Kashmir.

When it came to the limelight that many private ambulance operators in the Government Medical College and Hospital are violating the rules as they have neither been registered with the RTO office nor have sought any permission from the concerned department, the GMC administration brought the matter to the notice of the RTO Jammu and lodged a complaint seeking action.

“Many private ambulance operators are taking advantage in such a situation,” they said and added that GMC is also allegedly dominated by the nexus of private ambulance operators.


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