Making a living by transporting the dead

Biggest sufferers are out of town people who pay over Rs4,000 for taking bodies to villages

APP July 11, 2018

RAWALPINDI: It seems that in the aftermath of tragedies the cost of bearing the misfortune falls further on the bereaved families as is evident from the fact that ambulances are charging exorbitant amounts to transport bodies from hospitals to homes in the garrison city.

Private ambulances are charging hefty sums from members of bereaved families to transport bodies from hospitals as the number of official vehicles available especially at three allied hospitals are insufficient to meet the demand.

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According to a survey a large number of private ambulances can be seen lined-up in front of emergency wards of Holy Family Hospital, Benazir Bhutto Hospital and District Headquarters Rawalpindi.

A private ambulance owner, requesting anonymity, said they get a list of "critical" patients every morning from nurses to assess scope of their day- to-day business.

He revealed that ambulance drivers loiter around wards and as soon as a patient dies they approach the relatives to offer their services.

As a business trick, he said many drivers feign shock and grief over the death and even join in weeping with the members of the bereaved family.

Muhammad Afzal, another driver of a private ambulance stationed at the Holy Family Hospital, said “ normally we charge Rs700 to 1,000 to carry bodies in non-air-conditioned ambulances within the city. In most cases, he said, payment is requested in advance because after reaching the destination it quite often becomes impossible to ask for fare.”

The biggest sufferers are people from outside the city who have to pay around Rs 4,000 to 5,000 to transport bodies to their native villages.

During the survey it was learnt that lower staff members of the hospitals have started running their own ambulance service because they get on the spot business. Ambulance services of non-governmental organisations and volunteer bodies are not available immediately, or during odd hours.

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The Edhi Ambulance service, which charges reasonable rates  is also short of vans and it takes time to seek their service.

Every year, a lot of money is allocated for the purchase of ambulances for the Health Department.

However, official ambulances are seldom available, or are only available to influentials. Dependents of the patients have appealed to the government to rectify the situation so as to save them from the private 'ambulance mafia', which allegedly enjoys the patronage of the city hospitals' authorities.  

Published in The Express Tribune, July 11th, 2018.


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