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Bengal govt to frame policies in bid to regulate private ambulance service in state

Kolkata: In a bid to regulate private ambulances in the state, the Bengal government has decided to frame policies, fixing accountability on the ambulance operators. The Health department is chalking out detailed plans on how to check errant ambulance owners, who exorbitantly charge patients.
The state government may bring out a Bill to regulate the operations of ambulances ferrying patients across the state. The proposed Bill will specify what the ambulances need to have, in terms of infrastructure.
According to sources, the state government may pass the Bill in the Assembly soon, to crack down on illegal ambulances which are rampant across the state.
Bengal will be the first state to take strong steps against the ambulance operators, if they are found flouting the guidelines imposed by the state Health department. Following the Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's instruction, West Bengal Clinical Establishment Regulatory Commission was set up, to fix accountability on the private hospitals in the state and their doctors.
The state Health department is contemplating if the rules relating to ambulance services can be brought under the ambit of the West Bengal Clinical Establishment Regulatory Commission. According to a senior Health department official, it is up to the government on how to proceed further.
Private ambulance operators providing emergency service, could be brought under the ambit of the new law. It will be made mandatory for qualified paramedics and doctors to remain present inside the ambulances. It will also mandate basic life support system in the vehicle.
The steps are being taken after the state Health department came to know how some unethical people were taking the patients for a ride and how the people, particularly in the districts, were heckled by unscrupulous elements.
One of the main objectives is to make all the hospitals, both private and state-run and other health care units, referring patients to other nursing homes and referral hospitals, accountable.
Presently, any vehicle having a commercial licence can be used as an ambulance. There are plans to introduce dual certification, where the state Health department will keep a tab on the condition of the ambulance, sources said.
People in the districts are fed up with the tout menace controlling the ambulances in the districts. They charge additional amounts for arranging doctors in the ambulances. Due to the lack of any rate chart set up by the Swasthya Bhavan, the ambulance operators fleece the patients.
It may be mentioned that earlier this year, a Madhyamik examinee, who was being ferried to Kolkata from Burdwan in an ambulance with an AC mechanic posing as doctor, eventually died while being transported.

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