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A three judge bench of the Supreme Court led by Justice Ashok Bhushan today issued notice in a plea urging the court to direct the Centre to increase "number of ambulance/ambulance services to cater to COVID and Non- COVID patients and to improve the efficiency of the existing ambulance services." (Earth & Anr versus Union of India)
During the hearing today, Justice MR Shah orally took note of the steep rates being charged for ambulance services amid the pandemic, remarking that "Ambulances are charging (Rs) 15,000 to 20,000."
Appearing for the petitioner, Advocate Dhruv Tamta observed that, "Ambulances have become (Rs) 7,000 from 700."
"We know", Justice Bhushan responded, "that is why notice has been issued."
The petition filed by NGO Earth through Advocate Tamta urges the Court to direct the centre to use powers under Sections 63 and 65 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005 to increase and improve ambulance services to cater to COVID and non- COVID patients.
The plea was filed in the wake of the steady increase in the number of COVID patients and the "difficulties faced by the common man seeking medical treatment amidst the lockdown to travel to hospital for the same."
The petition relies on several news reports to substantiate its case. In this regard, it also cites the May 28 death of a 65-year-old man in Delhi who "had to wait for an ambulance for almost two and a half hours."
Citing the example of the Government of Haryana using the services of a private cab aggregator to address the issue of ambulance shortage, the plea states the model adopted by Haryana can be adopted by others.
reads the plea.
The NGO has submitted before the court that a centralized mechanism or ’operation centers’ can be set up to increase the number of ambulances. With this available private ambulances available can be requisitioned and registered under the Road Transport Office.
Further, public transport vehicles can also be converted into ambulances. Thereby, all ambulance services can be brought under one roof and made accessible to the common man
The plea also states that an app could be developed where patients can avail of such services along with a "uniform rate" in place to be charged by such service providers.