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Fleet boost to 108 service

The state government on Wednesday launched a fleet of ambulances to bolster healthcare services and counter the menace of private ones ferrying people in distress.

Residents can call up 1099 (toll-free) to avail the service. Chief minister Nitish Kumar flagged off 44 state-of-the-art advanced life support vehicles on Wednesday. With this the number of state-run ambulances has now risen to 49.

Each ambulance costs Rs 24 lakh and is equipped with 22 instruments and 34 types of medicines. Health department officials said the existing five vehicles (called 108 ambulances because of the toll-free number one needs to dial to avail one), too, are equipped with advanced instruments but the new ones are superior.

“The new ambulances are equipped with instruments like emergency ventilator, syringe infusion pump, electrocardiogram machine, defibrillator and others. To avail of the service, one needs to dial 1099. These vehicles would run 24x7,” said M.P. Sharma, the programme officer, State Health Society, Bihar, which looks after the state-run ambulance service.

According to sources, though the health department is trying its best to expand and strengthen services of state-run ambulances, it has failed to check the menace of private ambulances charging huge amounts without providing basic facilities like oxygen cylinders and others.

Health secretary Sanjay Kumar admitted that his department had been unable to check the menace of private ambulances in the absence of specific registration rules.

“We are unable to check the menace of private ambulances in the absence of registration rules. But we can provide better services through our state-run ambulances to discourage people from banking on these private ambulances,” said Sanjay. Asked what action has been initiated to stop private ambulances from encroaching state-run hospital premises, including at Patna Medical College and Hospital, he said instructions had been issued and he would look into it.

Deepak Kumar, the principal secretary of the health department, said: “Our department is planning to avail requisite facilities to treat heart-related ailments at Sadar hospitals. The doctors and the paramedical staff at Sadar hospitals would be trained to provide treatment to cardiac patients.”