BMC offers free ambulances, people unaware

Covid-19 Health

Mumbaikars pay a high amount of charges to private ambulance services despite free ambulance services by BMC.

Mumbai- Mumbaikars have been unaware of the free ambulance services of Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and are paying high charges for private ambulances in an emergency. Ankita Dhanawade, a resident of Mulund, Mumbai, said “My uncle was Covid-19 positive in April, and we needed an ambulance in an emergency. We did not think about anything else. We directly called a private ambulance and paid Rs 3000 just for the hospital, which was   just one kilometre from my house.” He said that if she had been aware of free ambulance services by the BMC, it would have saved her a lot of money. She added, “BMC should advertise more about free ambulance services.”

Sandesh Surve’s relative was admitted in a hospital in Mulund due to COVID-19 in May 2021. He said, “One of my relatives was suddenly diagnosed with COVID-19. We  had to take him to the hospital immediately. I was unaware about BMC free ambulances services. Otherwise I would have called the T ward directly to send an ambulance over here. But BMC also needs bed booking details then only they  send ambulances. It’s not always possible to book a  bed  in an emergency. Sometimes we take patients directly to the hospital in an emergency.” 

The Fortis hospital’s crematorium is just a kilometre away from the hospital but the private ambulances are still charging aroundRs. 2000 to 3000. A spokesperson for Mulund based Bsideu  ambulance services said, “To take a COVID-19 dead body from Fortis hospital to crematorium, we  charge Rs. 3500 because we need to sanitize the ambulance and also our staff needs to wear PPE kits. We have to take care of our staff that will be there with you. There will be one driver and one staff member to lift the body. That’s why charges are higher.”

Mahesh Ambulance services, Mulund, Mumbai, said, “We will charge Rs. 2500 if the death is by COVID-19 and crematorium is up to a kilometre away. If the crematorium is three kilometres away, then we charge Rs. 3000. Our staff will be there with you who will be wearing PPE kits. If you want three staff members then we  charge Rs. 2700. For non-covid-19 patients we charge Rs. 1200 to take the patients to  a hospital or the body to a crematorium.”

Representative of BMC disaster control, Mayur said, “BMC has free ambulances service in every ward for COVID-19 patients. If the bed is confirmed by patients, their relatives can give a call at 108. As soon as they give us bed details,we dispatch the ambulance. They can directly contact their specific ward to get free ambulances in case of an emergency. ” 

He added, “For patients with cardiac arrest or with low oxygen levels, we give an ambulance immediately. In fact if you call your ward directly they can reserve the bed for you and dispatch an ambulance. If there is a death due to COVID-19 they can call on 1916 to get a free ambulance.” 

T ward representatives of BMC said, “We have three ambulances available for COVID-19 patients. These ambulance services are available 24/7 for every COVID-19 patient.”

Omkargauda Kakade, Professor of mass communication at Akkamahadevi University said, “Government should create awareness about these kinds of free services. Contact details to call for free ambulances must be available in hospitals. Hospitals also have data of patients and  of other parties of health services, so the government can effectively communicate about these services. Government should also advertise on mainstream media and through social media. They can also find the target audience who will have the necessities of an ambulance. Advertisements in local newspapers and digital media platforms can help them to communicate such schemes.”