Enforcement officials flag threats posed by ambulance misuse in Kochi

‘Vehicles being used as a cover for crimes like smuggling and ferrying of hawala cash’

Even as demand for ambulances peaked last year following the COVID-19 outbreak, police and Motor Vehicles Department (MVD) personnel say that instances of they being unnecessarily driven at high speeds and rash driving have gone up.

The privileges that ambulances enjoy — to overtake and enforcement personnel not waving them down for routine inspections — are, in many cases, being used as a cover for smuggling, ferrying of hawala cash, and other crimes, said a senior MVD official.

Pointing to the need to make it mandatory to have inbuilt, tamper-proof GPS in all ambulances, he said it would prevent their misuse to a large extent. There are individuals who own over 30 ambulances each, which operate for different organisations. Some of them consider them as money-spinners and fleece hapless patients who are in need of emergency care.

Standardised fare

“We are flooded with complaints of operators/drivers levying many times the normal fare. This calls for standardised fare fixed by the government, depending on the type of ambulance, the basic ones sans oxygen support, ones which provide oxygen support, and those that have ICU-like infra,” the official said.

Police sources said many hospitals provided handsome commission to ambulance operators to ferry accident victims to their casualty wings, with the result that unwary victims are transported long distances, overlooking multi-speciality hospitals en route which have trauma care facility. “Ambulances are not exempt from Motor Vehicle Rules, and they have to abide by them,” they added.

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