Riding a Hearse to Hospital?

Guwahati, Assam: It’s unethical, unhealthy and bizzare. In Assam’s capital (and other places in Assam as well), private hearse (or dead body carrying vans), double up as ‘ambulances’. It’s illegal, but nobody’s bothered…

Hearse: used for representation only

There is a complete ambiguity as to which department is actually mandated to rein in such illegal activities. So one  government department keeps lobbing the ball into another one’s court!

The health department says it has no role in the regulation of such private vehicles as it is the prerogative of the DTO concerned.  The Office of the District Transport Officer claims that it is only responsible for checking the fitness of vehicles.

A related problem is the plying of so-called ‘ambulances’ which are ill-equipped. they are just as bad as the hearses.

“Many a time, patients in need of critical care die on their way to hospital as such ambulances do not even have basic life support facilities. The blame is then invariably shifted to the hospital,” sources in the health department complain.

“The oxygen cylinders that are seen attached inside are mostly empty and are designed to fool the patient’s family. There is simply no mechanism to regulate them. How can they play with the lives of the people?” an aware Guwahati resident pointed out.

“Why can’t the local police act on it? The new Motor Vehicle Act has come up with new slabs of fine for those who do not make way for ambulances, which is good. But an ill-equipped and unregistered ambulance is equally fatal,”he said.

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These unauthorised ambulances are invariably seen parked in and around hospitals, including all the medical colleges and hospitals in the State even as the respective district administration and other line agencies continue to remain blissfully unaware.

Sources said that the authorities of some of the medical colleges and hospitals have apprised the police and the transport department about the gravity of the situation, but all those have apparently fallen on deaf ears.

“It is only after a hospital recommends that the vehicle is equipped with necessary facilities that we issue the permit,” said a senior official of the transport department without wishing to be named.

Amidst this callousness, the  ordinary citizen tends to fall into the trap of these unscrupulous elements who, some citizens say, are acting hand-in-glove with the law enforcers.

Some  private hospitals offer the drivers of such ambulances a commission if they bring patients, who mostly come from other districts to Guwahati, to their hospitals.

Mohit Brahma, Citizen journalist