People are being deprived of government ambulance services as employees of two significant government hospitals in the city are running illegal ambulance businesses taking advantage of the ambulance shortage and lack of proper management.
The hospital authorities are unmoved over the issue and have not taken any action against the accused employees.
Prothom Alo correspondent during a week’s field visit found 14 employees are running the illegal business with 20 ambulances at Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH), Sir Salimullah Medical College Mitford Hospital and National Institute of Traumatology and Orthopaedics Rehabilitation (NITOR).
Also, relatives of current and former employees of Mitford hospital and the orthopaedic hospital are also found involved in the business with 10 ambulances.
The issue came to light after five people were hit and killed by a one such private ambulance at the DMCH gate on 15 October last year. A ward boy of the hospital, Mofizul Islam, was the owner of the ambulance. He is currently on bail.
According to the hospital physicians, employees and relatives of the patients, the government ambulance charges Tk 300 for patients inside Dhaka city. However, the employees force them to pay Tk 1500 to Tk 2000 for the use of the ambulance.
The victims even have to pay twice or thrice for various expenses for carrying dead bodies or patients.
Nowadays, patients and their relatives of the hospitals are dependent on these ambulances at night or for long distances.
Hasna Ara, 50, and her injured son Hanif, 35, of Munshganj’s Gazaria were taken to the DMCH on 22 April. Hanif was later transferred to the orthopaedics hospital and Hasna was sent home after treatment.
Hasna Ara’s brother Mostafa Kamal said they failed to get any government ambulance to transfer Hanif to the orthopaedics hospital and they had to use a private ambulance.
A DMCH ward boy later said the ambulance was unavailable as it was out of order.
There is legal bar against privately run ambulance businesses as only BRTA only allows a service giving organisation for registration in this purpose.
BRTA director (additional secretary-enforcement) Nazmul Ahsan Majumdar told Prothom Alo that the BRTA authorities are conducting a raid against the illegal individually-owned ambulances.
BRTA is planning a fresh drive against the illegal ambulance business centering on government hospitals, he added.
Dhaka Medical College Hospital
Records at the BRTA regional office in Mirpur shows that ambulances have been registered in names of four employees of the Dhaka Medical College Hospital.
The ambulance owners are DMCH’s fourth grade employee union president Abdul Khalek’s nephew and ward boy Md Russel, ward boys Jamal Sardar, Mofizul Islam alias Mahfuz and a retired ward boy Sardar Usman Ali.
Now, Sardar Usman Ali’s son Sumon Ali runs the ambulance business.
A total of 11 the DMCH employees are involved in the business. They have at least 16 ambulances and fourth grade union leaders are behind the business.
The employee union president Abdul Khalek, who was Dhaka city corporation’s ward 63 Awami League general secretary, said a few employees, including his nephew Russel, are involved in the business.
An enquiry shows the DMCH authorities have seven ambulances. Two of the ambulances are out of order while other two are being used by the burn-unit of the hospital and remaining three being used for carrying patients.
Sir Salimullah Medical College Mitford Hospital
Investigation finds Sir Salimullah Medical College Mitford Hospital (SSMC) has three ambulances in total. One of them is now out of order.
The hospital director’s driver Tajul Islam is running two ambulances that he bought from the hospital authorities in a tender in 2014 without reregistration.
Other nine former and current employees and their relatives are involved in the ambulance business and they have 10 ambulances.
The SSMC’s ambulance driver Md Arif owns an ambulance, BRTA sources said.
Other ambulances are registered in more than one persons and organisations.
The SSMC’s director Brigadier General Brayan Bankim Haldar said, “I know nothing about that.”
National Institute of Traumatology and Orthopaedic Rehabilitation (NITOR) has two ambulances. One of the two is inoperative.
Another investigation shows Firoz Ahmed, husband of the hospital’s staff Rokeya Begum, and another employee Nurjahan’s brother-in-law Abul Hossain own two ambulances.
Firoz Ahmed said he has an ambulance registered with the BRTA. Another ambulance’s driver Aminul Islam said owner of the ambulance is Abul Hossain.
The orthopedics hospital’s director Md Abdul Gani told Prothom Alo that the hospital employees were warned and police were asked to remove the privately-run ambulances on the hospital premise.
There are allegations that pro-ruling party-backed employees are in support of the ambulance business.
There is a legal restriction that a government employee cannot run any business while being in the service.
Director general Abul Kamal Azad of Health Directorate said the same rule is applied for the government hospital employees.
He also said that the policymakers led by the state minister for health are trying to figure out ways to bring the ambulance business under control.
*This piece, originally published in Prothom Alo Bangla print edition, has been rewritten in English by Toriqul Islam.