An ambulance in Delhi | Representational image
An ambulance in Delhi | Representational image
Manvender Vashist

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought out the best and worst of humanity. Even as countless good samaritans step up to help strangers in this time of need, others are busy trying to swindle grief stricken families, COVID-19 patients and more. Over the last few weeks, even as cases in the country hit record highs, reports of fake drugs, astronomical ambulance bills and more continue to persist.

Even as thousands continue to reach out for hospital beds and medical supplies via social media platforms, others strike a cautionary note. Some warn others against making advance payments for oxygen cylinders and essential drugs. Others recount how putting their numbers online brought dozens of unsolicited propositions, inappropriate pictures and more.

A quick perusal of Twitter will also provide you with stories about the astronomical ambulance bills that many are now being forced to pay. On Thursday, IPS Officer Pankaj Nain took to Twitter sharing an ambulance bill for a whopping Rs. 1.2 lakh. The patient in question was being ferried from a hospital in Phase 1 of Gurgaon to another hospital in Ludhiana.

The post has evoked a flurry of horrified reactions, with many calling for immediate action against other organisation. Others still shared similar ordeals that they or people they knew had faced in recent days.

This is not an isolated incident. Several well known Twitter accounts have recently called out ambulances charging exorbitant amounts. At the end of April for example, police official Arun Bothra took to Twitter sharing an ambulance rental bill where a patient had been charged Rs. 10,000 for a distance of around 4 kilometers.

Capped rates and protests

With numerous reports of inflated fares coming in recently, the Delhi administration has now capped private ambulance rates, threatening strict action against over-chargers. As per this new price structure, Patient Transport Ambulances will charge Rs. 1,500, basic life support ambulances will charge Rs. 2,000 and advanced life support ambulances can charge Rs. 4,000 for distances up to 10 km. After this, the price will rise by Rs 100 per extra kilometer.

The district administration in Gurgaon has reportedly revised charges, raising the cap amid protests from private operators. As per the revised rates, there will be a flat charge as well as an additional charge of Rs. 25 per km. This flat charge varies based on distance - Rs. 500 for 3 km, Rs. 750 for distances between 3 and 7 km and Rs 1000 for distances over 7 km.

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