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Half of Bihar, 19 districts deprived of 108 ambulance service due to non-payment by district Swasthya Samitis

Half of Bihar, 19 districts deprived of 108 ambulance service due to non-payment by district Swasthya Samitis

108: the preferred ambulance service in Bihar

Patna: 108, the ambulance service that became a favourite of Bihar in a short period of time has run into a problem that should have been avoided! Well-equipped, staffed by trained professionals and reasonable in their fee structure, the 108 has been quite popular in Bihar.

Unfortunately, the 108 Ambulance service is no longer available in 19 out of the 38 districts of Bihar since Sunday. The reason – non-payment of dues by the Health Committees [Swasthya Samitis]. According to Sumit Basu, the Project Head of Health care Ltd that runs the facility, the 38 districts of Bihar together owe the company Rs 120 lakh. He said that those districts who have continued to make payments have not been deprived of the service.

The Health Minister Ashwini Choubey, the Principal Health secretary Amarjeet Sinha and the Executive Director Bihar Health Society Sanjay Kumar were all informed before the services for the 19 districts was withheld. A letter to the CM will be sent by the company in this regard.

The ambulances recalled from the districts are now parked in front of the Bihar Health Society, Patna.

According to Basu, other states like Punjab, Rajasthan and Kerala have over 1000 ambulances running in their towns. They however have a centralized system of payment which simplifies matters considerably. Why Bihar continues to have an inefficient system of district level payments is not clear.

The executive director of the Bihar Health society has called for a meeting of all the civil surgeons on Tuesday after which some action may be taken in this regard.

The districts deprived of the 108 include - Jamui, Lakhisarai, Madhubani, Samsatupur, Gaya, Jahanabad, Rohtas, Motihari, Sitamarhi, Bhojpuri, Buxar, Betiya, Saran, Kishenganj, Vaishali, Madhepura, Supaul, Banka, and Nawada.

The patients and their families in distant corners of Bihar are in the meantime suffering due to official apathy. The private ambulance operators are making use of the opportunity to charge high rates for transporting the sick.

In the meantime according to reports, the employees of 108 in Patna have gone on a strike against non-payment of salaries and long hours of duty. Each 108 ambulance apart from the driver carries an assistant and a paramedic. The ire of the employees is clearly directed at the State Swasthya Samiti [Bihar Health Society] which has failed to pay their salaries since October. Earlier, the employees went on a strike on 12 January but withdrew the strike after assurances from the Swasthya Samiti officials. Thus the problem has been brewing for some time and the present crisis seems far from unforeseen!

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