Another scam? BMC paid double market rate for six cardiac ambulances

Published: Dec 13, 2013, 07:30 IST | Vinod Kumar Menon |

An RTI query has revealed that each of the six cardiac ambulances that the BMC gave to six hospitals in the city were procured at almost double the price that established manufacturers sell them for

An RTI query has revealed that each of the six cardiac ambulances that the BMC gave to six hospitals in the city were procured at almost double the price that they are sold for, by established manufacturers in the country.

An attendant cleans the cardiac ambulance at Shatabdi Hospital in Govandi. Pics/Sameer Markande

According to details furnished by the BMC in response to an RTI query filed by Borivli resident Mehul Katariya, each of the ambulances have cost of Rs 59.65 lakh.

One of the six BMC cardiac ambulances that have cost Rs 59.65 lakh each

MiD DAY’s conversations with other manufacturers have revealed that similar ambulances can be purchased for about Rs 29.5 lakh each from seasoned, established manufacturers.

A private cardiac ambulance that can be purchased for Rs 29.5 lakh each from established manufacturers

This effectively means that the BMC has spent Rs 3.6 crore extra on their 12 ambulances for the fire brigade and the civic hospitals Rs 3.6 crore of the taxpayer’s hard-earned money. The BMC had procured all the six cardiac ambulances for peripheral and apex civic hospitals in 2010, but they were officially distributed to the hospitals over the past two years.

The incident
Two years ago, Katariya rushed to Bhagwati Hospital for a friend who had met with an accident and was admitted in the trauma unit. “The hospital staff informed us that they didn’t have adequate support ventilators, and advised us to shift the patient to a bigger hospital. “When I asked the hospital staff if they could use the hospital’s cardiac ambulance to shift the patient, they refused, stating that the hospital’s cardiac ambulance was used only for patients who are referred to them by corporators or MLAs.

I was asked to arrange for a private cardiac ambulance and got the patient shifted to Sion Hospital,” said Katariya. “It is unfortunate that even in a life and death situation, the civic hospital staff want to follow the protocol and expect the patient’s relatives to pull strings. This episode spurred me to get to the root of the method of procurement of cardiac ambulances, which are meant for the public, but not used by them.”

RTI expose
Katariya filed the RTI query on August 1. The reply came three months later, on November 7. Katariya sent the query to various BMC health officials, but most of them preferred not to reply. Inexplicably, the reply came from the BMC traffic department, which in its response stated that six cardiac ambulances with 11 medical equipments (see box) were given to the hospitals, costing about Rs 59.65 lakh each. The break-up that was given is as follows: Rs 5.38 lakh for the vehicle, Rs 15.23 lakh for construction of ambulance body, and Rs 39 lakh for cost of medical equipment.

Another Rs 58 lakh was listed as expenditure for maintaining the 12 ambulances for the first two years after the one-year warranty lapsed. Katriya added, “The amount quoted per ambulance in the RTI seemed to be on the higher side. Moreover, the civic officials had just given a consolidated figure without any break-up. I decided to get the prices reconfirmed with private manufacturers and found that better cardiac ambulances were available at a price far less than what the BMC said it had spent on the vehicles.”

Armed with the RTI response, Katariya approached Delhi-based Instromedix (India) Pvt Ltd and city-based Vishal Ambulance Fabrication Company in Santacruz, both of which design critical care ambulances. The quotations from both the companies were much less than that with which BMC had procured them.

Instromedix (India) quoted Rs 4 lakh towards fabrication, Rs 15 lakh for medical equipment, barring the price of the vehicle, which starts at Rs 5 lakh, they said. Neeraj Singh, sales manager at Instromedix said, “We are in the service for very long and have catered to many private and star hospitals in Delhi and Mumbai. Cardiac ambulances ensure that the patient is given required medical care during transit to the hospital and a decent ambulance with all the necessary life-saving equipment won’t cost more than Rs 25 to Rs 30 lakh.

If somebody is quoting Rs 60 lakh for each ambulance, you must understand where the money is going.” Dr Hidayat Khan, managing partner at Vishal Ambulance, echoed Singh’s views, saying, “We are in the business for over a decade and our fully-equipped cardiac ambulance, as per the WHO guidelines, would not cost more than Rs 30 lakh. Our ambulances are at both domestic and international airports, other than major corporate houses and super-specialty hospitals.”

Hospitals that have a cardiac ambulance
>> BYL Nair Hospital, Mumbai Central
>> LTMG Hospital, Sion
>> Cooper Hospital, Vile Parle
>> KEM Hospital, Parel
>> Bhagwati Hospital, Borivli
>> Shatabdi Hospital, Govandi

The Other side
Additional Municipal Commissioner (Health) Manisha Mhaiskar said, “The procurement of ambulances was done by the transport wing of the Solid Waste Management (SWM) department; the health department is only using it for hospital purposes and has no role to play in the same.”

Additional Municipal Commissioner (SWM) Mohan Adtani said, “The vehicle has been procured a few years ago, when I was not holding this portfolio. As far as procurement and fabrication is concerned, I will ask for the records and check. The medical equipment in cardiac ambulances are installed as per the requirement details received from the Director of Medical Education and Health. You will have to check with him.”

Dr Suhasini Nagda, Director of Medical Education and Health, said, “I will have to find out the details, and consult Madam Mhaiskar and Mr Adtani before initiating an inquiry into the case. Even I have come across certain discrepancies in the ambulances, which need to be discussed and corroborated.”

Rs 59.65lakh
Amount the BMC paid for each ambulance

Rs 29.5lakh
Amount prominent manufacturers charge for a similar ambulance

Number of ambulances the BMC bought six for hospitals and six for the fire brigade 

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