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After Arijit death, govt plans law to regulate ambulances

Statesman News Service | Kolkata |

The death of Madhyamik examinee Arijit Das seems to have been an eye-opener for the state health department led by the chief minister Mamata Banerjee.

The state government is all set to bring out a bill to regulate the operations of ambulances ferrying patients across the state.

The West Bengal Ambulances Registrations (Regulation) Bill, 2018 will, among other things, specify what the ambulances specifically need to have in terms of infrastructure, including equipment and human resources mainly doctors, nurses and technicians.

A senior official of the health department said, “The unfortunate death of the Madhyamik examinee who was ferried to Kolkata from Burdwan has prompted us to bring out the West Bengal Ambulances Registrations (Regulation) Bill as soon as possible.”

“The draft of the Bill is almost complete and it will be sent to the chief minister who also holds the health portfolio for her opinion and after that it will be placed before the state legislative assembly to turn it into law,” the official said, requesting anonymity.

“Before this incident we have many reports on how ambulance operators have become a menace fleecing money from patients. There are no specific guidelines so far in the state to monitor these vehicles.

“For instance, many ambulances under the National Rural Health Mission’s Matrijan scheme allegedly harass pregnant women while ferrying them to hospitals or nursing homes. With these irregularities in mind, the health department decided to frame a law and started work to prepare a draft,” he added.

“Hardly two states in the country have guidelines to monitor the operations of ambulances. Once the Bill becomes law West Bengal will be the first state to take strong comprehensive steps if any ambulance is found flouting the guidelines,” a senior official of the state directorate of health services said.

“There is no provision in the Clinical Establishment (Registration and Regulation) Act to regulate ambulances. Till now the state transport department looks after the registration of these vehicles,” he added.

Most of the ambulances do not have basic infrastructure required for emergency treatment of patients, often accident victims, while in transit to hospitals or nursing homes, the health department officials pointed out.

Arijit died on the way to Kolkata from Burdwan last Thursday inside an ambulance that had an AC mechanic, Shiekh Sarfajuddin masquerading as a doctor.

Annapurna Nursing Home in Burdwan, where Arijit was undergoing treatment, had deputed the mechanic as a doctor inside the ambulance that was carrying the patient to Kolkata.

It was during the ambulance journey from Burdwan to Kolkata that Arijit’s condition deteriorated due to an insufficient life support system and the negligence of both Sarfarajuddin and Tarababu Sha, the ambulance driver.

Arijit was declared dead on arrival at 12.32 a.m. by the on duty EMO of RN Tagore Hospital. It was soon revealed that Sarfarajuddin was not a doctor but rather an AC mechanic.

The ambulance was seized by the Purba Jadavpur police and the two men arrested.

They were charged under Sections 304A (causing death by negligence), 419 (punishment for cheating by personation), 420 (cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property), 506(II) (criminal intimidation) and 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) of the Indian Penal Code.