Govt ambulance drivers not ready to embrace Indian funded service

 by Dilanthi Jayamanne

The Government Health Service Ambulance and Transport Drivers Association (GHSATDA) yesterday said there was no need to establish an Indo -Lanka ambulance service in the country.

Chairman of the GHSATDA, W. D. Wijesinghe said it would have been more feasible for the government to form a partnership with philanthropists in the private transport sector to establish a Pre- Hospital Care Ambulance Service as the hospitals in the peripheries of the country were badly in need of such a facility. 

Wijesinghe reiterated that as cautioned by several health service trade unions previously, the new service could also be a threat to the country’s security as all data regarding patients could be passed on to India. The repercussions of the move would only be felt later when Indian nationals started infiltrating the Sri Lankan job market – even if they were paramedics or ambulance drivers. What appears an asset to the country now would be a bane later on, he warned.

 The GHSATDA Chairman said that there were also issues of how welcome the ambulances would be within the premises of government hospitals. "Although this was a government initiated service under the Health Ministry, we are not aware how certain sections would tolerate having an emergency case being conveyed to the Hospital in one of those ambulances. It is doubtful whether the emergency responses could be carried out within a half an hour considering the roads in Sri Lanka. Such a task could be executed only if a patient was airlifted, he observed.

 The GHSATD carried out a 24 hour service and had been in operation since 1975. Our ambulance drivers have served even through the most difficult situations such as the post tsunami period. It was the government’s responsibility to develop the service. Some ambulances in the free health service are rickety, he said.

 The GHSATDA Chairman said his union had 6,000 members.

Wijesinghe said his union, and All Ceylon Provincial Council Unions had held discussions with Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne, and his officials regarding the Pre-Hospital Care Ambulance Service previously. The Ministry had issued a circular stating that the new ambulances would be parked in hospital premises, police stations and municipal councils during the night.

 "However, we took a pledge from the Ministry to refrain from stationing those ambulances in hospitals at night.

 He warned that his union and all provincial Council ambulance drivers and other transport services in the health service would not hesitate to abstain from their duties if did not heed their demand.

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