Coronavirus outbreak: Drivers upset as BEST offers to ferry patients

Updated: 13 April, 2020 07:32 IST | Rajendra B Aklekar | Mumbai

Say they have to ferry unescorted patients; drivers have been given PPE suits but don't know how to use them, allege the buses used are not disinfected

With a shortage of ambulances, the BEST Undertaking, in a goodwill gesture, has offered two of its buses to ferry patients. However, the move has not gone well with drivers and trade unions, who said there should be proper protocols in place before such an idea was introduced.

Sources said from last week two buses from the Wadala depot have been given out to ferry patients from the Podar hospital at Worli to BMC's Rajawadi hospital in Ghatkopar. A senior trade union leader said that the patients are just put in the bus and drivers are asked to ferry them unescorted without any doctor, health staff or even a policeman. "Who will be responsible, if the patient runs away? What about our safety? The doctors at Rajawadi did give us Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) sets, but we do not know how to use them. These should be some protocol in place while doing all this. When we go on duty, suddenly we are allotted the buses without notice," a driver said.

'Unfair treatment'
BEST union leader Jagnarayan Kahar said that the administration should stop playing with the lives of BEST employees like this. "They are ready to work, but the management should follow a proper set of rules before pushing them to do such jobs. It is unfair that the employees are being treated this way," he told mid-day. Kahar said he that he was following up the matter with the administration.

Kahar told mid-day that nine workers have died on the London public transport due to a similar lack of protocol, of not equipping bus drivers with proper PPE. "We will not allow such negligence to happen in Mumbai," he said.

Buses not cleaned
An employee complained that the buses are taken to the hospitals to ferry patients every day are not even washed properly. They are just passed through auto-wash machine for an exterior clean-up, and to clean the interiors of the bus one capful of disinfectant from a bottle is mixed in 10 litres of water. "You tell me, is that safe? asked Kahar.

BEST officials said that doctors have been visiting every bus depot to train drivers and conductors about the virus and ways to get protected from it, and that the BEST Undertaking has been playing a crucial role in keeping alive the transportation of essential workers in the city when the railways are down.

"We are following all the necessary protocols that are required to run the services with complete safety of the bus staff," an official said.

No. of buses that are being used to ferry patients

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First Published: 13 April, 2020 07:17 IST

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