Ministry of Health to check misuse of ambulances

Kathmandu, November 13

Nursing director Goma Devi Niraula at Bir Hospital uses the hospital’s ambulance every day.

The hospital authority has modified the ambulance gifted by the Indian government and provided it to her for personal use.

The hospital has also been using other ambulances provided by neighbouring countries and social welfare organisations to transport its staffers. The hospital has been operating only one ambulance to ferry patients to other hospitals.

“Our ambulance does not pick patients,” a hospital staffer said on condition of anonymity.

Most of ambulances operating across the country are ill-equipped, do not meet requirements set by government and charge the patients exorbitantly. Ambulances have also been found carrying illicit and smuggled goods like red sandalwood, gold and parts of endangered animals.

District Public Health Office, Kathmandu said it recommends tax exemption for at least one ambulance every day. As per the recommendation of the DPHO, the government provides Rs two million tax exemption on the purchase of each ambulance.

However, investigations show most ambulances are not used for the purpose they are bought for. “Ambulances have certain responsibilities, which they must fulfil,” said Mahendra Prasad Sharma, chief of the Kathmandu DPHO.

He said most of ambulances did not carry patients in need of emergency if they could not afford the fare.

According to Shrestha, even cooperatives, clubs, NGOs and religious organisations have been operating ambulances. “Instead of serving patients in emergencies, most of the organisations have been operating ambulances to earn money,” said Shrestha.

He blamed weak monitoring system of the government for the misuse of ambulances. The DPHO said several organisations were operating ambulances without registration.

Most of the ambulance operators do not think it necessary to renew the registration of their vehicles.

A study carried out the Kathmandu DPHO in the past shows that most of the ambulances operating in the capital are ill-equipped as they do not meet requirements set by the government.

The government does not have any mechanism to check misuse of ambulances, neither does it have information about the number of ambulances operating throughout the country.

Most of the ambulances registered with the DPHO are of C category as they are running without the basic life support system.

The Ministry of Health said that it had been working to regulate the ambulances. “We are preparing to issue directives to regulate ambulances operating across the country,” said Spokesperson for the ministry Bhogendra Dotel.

He said the ministry would form a committee at the district-level to regulate ambulance services. “They have to fulfil certain duties if they enjoy tax exemption from the government,” said Dotel.