Press Trust of India

Most of 22 ambulances unused due to lack of drivers in J-K’s Mendhar

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Poonch/Jammu: A shortage of ambulance drivers has been alleged to be the chief reason behind the death here in Poonch district’s Mendher sub division of a pregnant woman, who could not be rushed fast enough to a hospital in an ambulance for there was no one to drive it.

Most of nearly two dozen ambulances have been lying unused due to a shortage of drivers in Mendhar sub division for the last more than four months.

Only four ambulance drivers have been posted by the health department in the sub division, near the Line of Control, about 60 kms south of the district headquarters.

Rukhsana Kousar, 35, died on June 24 while being shifted to a sub district hospital in Mendhar from a Public Health Centre in Mankote in a load carrier because there was no ambulance driver.

The doctor and the pharmacist were also allegedly absent from the PHC when the patient arrived there for treatment.

Action has been recommended against both by the Block Medical Officer since.

“There is no doubt that we are running short of ambulance drivers ambulances are available in all PHCs and health sub centres in the sub division, most of them provided by panchayat Raj Institution (PRI) members,” Block Medical Officer Mendhar Javid Choudhary said.

He said every effort is being made to ensure that the critical care patients and pregnant women do not face any issue.

Choudhary also claimed that the ambulance service is available round-the-clock through 108 and 102 helpline in Mendhar, the location of the main hospital in the entire sub division.

According to sources in the health department, many ambulance drivers hired by the health department had left four months ago, alleging they were not being paid their salaries regularly.

At least 22 ambulance drivers are required to make the ambulance fleet fully functional, even though the rules demand that a minimum of three drivers are needed for each ambulance to ensure a round-the-clock functioning of the vital service, they said.

Imran Zaffer, District Development Council member from Mankote Tehsil, which along with Balakote tehsil also comes under the sub division, called the lack of drivers, and the death because of it, unfortunate,.

“It takes almost three hours to reach Mendhar. We lost a pregnant woman recently as there was no ambulance driver at the PHC and the doctor was also missing. Her family engaged a load carrier to shift her to Mendhar but she died,” Zaffer said.

He said the border areas of Balakote and Balnoi are also finding difficulties in shifting patients to the Mendhar hospital. “There is a need to upgrade all PHCs in border villages and ensure that ambulance drivers are available.”

Zaffer said he has already raised the issue with the Poonch deputy commissioner, who assured him that a plan was being worked out to do away with the problem of drivers.

Habibullah Khan, a former Sarpanch of Mustafa Nagar, requested Lt Governor Manoj Sinha for his intervention in making the ambulance service efficient in the sub-division.

“There is a shortage of doctors and we are forced to shift pregnant women to Government Medical College in Rajouri, but we don’t have the facilities,” he said.

Press Trust of India

Press Trust of India is lead news agency of India

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