Ambulance drivers are up in arms against the state-run Sassoon General Hospital’s new pay and park scheme, which requires them to pay parking fees for every visit to the hospital.
The drivers say that since they come under emergency services, they shouldn’t be made to pay parking charges while visiting the hospital. Hospital authorities say that move is necessary to curb motorists who park their vehicles for hours at the premise while visiting other establishments in the area.
Pune Ambulance Association’s President Balasaheb Hingane said, “ Ambulances come under emergency medical services. We are exempted from paying fees at toll plazas, and will be made to pay to park at Sassoon. Even private hospitals who charge steep parking charges excuse us from paying the charges. The hospital has decided to level parking charges from us clearly to make money.
Rafique Mullah, another ambulance driver, said, “Several times during the day, we bring people who are in a critical condition to the hospital and having to stop and pay parking fees will only lead to delays. Moreover, relatives of patients would be irked with the hold-up and would start harassing us. Many a times we provide free service for needy and poor people who are sick, and by shelling out money from our pockets for the parking fees will only add to our burden.”
The pay and park scheme which comes into effect in two days time will fetch the hospital Rs 72,700 per month, according to the parking operator selected to manage the job.
Barring the ambulance service run by Shrimant Dagadu Sheth Halwai Trust, all other ambulance drivers would have to pay Rs 10 for the first four hours, Rs 20 for 12 hours and Rs 40 for a 24-hour stay.
The decision to implement the pay and park scheme has also drawn criticism from other quarters who feel that the need of the hour is not a pay and park scheme but better security at the hospital. After German bakery blast on February 13 2010, the Pune police officials had conducted a survey of sensitive establishments in the city, after which Sassoon Hospital authorities were instructed to step up security measures. Despite the concerns, hospital administration recently cut down the strength of security guards citing unusefulness.
Dalit Panther leader Bapu Bhosale who donated three CCTV cameras and two digital video recorders to boost the security concerns at the hospital, said, “At a time when security at the hospital is still a big concern, the security equipment donated last year has not even been installed yet by the hospital. It’s quite clear that the security of patients who mostly hail from poor families is not of concern to them.”
The hospital administration gave no answers to security concerns put to them, but said that the pay and park system is implemented to keep unwanted vehicles and people at bay as several of them visiting nearby government hospitals are found parking vehicles for hours at the hospital premises. Reacting on why no security measures were implemented, Dr D G Kulkarni, superintendent of the hospital, said that administration is waiting for state government’s advice on this issue.
The parking contractor said, “I have seen many vehicles lying abandoned at the premise, so considering the security a pay and park was a must. Moreover, there is no discipline, as visitors to the hospital park their vehicles haphazardly, which is affecting emergency services at the hospital. A few tourist vehicles are also seen parked at the premise.”
He added that considering that people from the lower strata of community avail medical services at this hospital, he has kept charges at minimum rate. Dr Kulkarni said that the contract was finalised three weeks ago and it will be effective from June 17.