Supreme Court: State Governments Must Fix Reasonable Charges for Ambulance Services
An NGO called Earth filed this petition through Advocate Dhruv Tamta. It directed state governments and centres of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Delhi to invoke their powers under sections 63 and 65 of the Disaster Management Act. The petition urges the ambulance to determine the per kilometre fare rates, along with advice regarding the use of health safety equipment such as PPE kits for employees in the ambulance.
The court intervention has been sought to meet the need for more ambulances to enable COVID-19 as well as non-COVID-19 patients to be transported.
On Friday, a bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, Justice R. Subhash Reddy and Justice MR Shah observed that the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare prepared the India COVID 19 Emergency Response and Health System Preparation Package on 23 April 2020 and also a SOP on 29 March 2020 has been issued.
Further, the Bench stated that there are no guidelines regarding pricing of ambulance charges under SOP. Thus, the state government should fix a reasonable fee and all ambulance providers will provide an ambulance at that fee.
The petitioner has stated that there is a huge shortage of ambulances across the country as well as mismanagement of ambulance services across the country. By converting public transport vehicles into ambulances and bringing all ambulance / ambulance services under one roof, the need to create a “centralized system and / or operation centre” to make them accessible to the common man has also been accepted. .
Even though the Directorate General of Health Services had prepared a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for transporting a suspected or confirmed Covid-19 cases and independent of ambulances to meet the increasing demand Empowerment was called, States have failed to fill the shortage of ambulance services.
The plea states that in addition to the lack of ambulances, those available are charging exorbitant rates on the pretext of covering the cost of PPE by every healthcare worker, driver and emergency medical technician themselves wear is highly essential to protect against the spread of the virus.
In this backdrop, the petitioner states that the Centre should use the power conferred on it in terms of Section 65 of the DMA, 2005 which requires the power to acquire resources, provisions, vehicles, etc. for rescue operations. At the same time under Section 63 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, the authority is that Central officials and State Governments may be requested to make themselves available to act in relation to disaster mitigation.
By Priya Kumari