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Dhaka Tribune

Hartal? No problem, use an ambulance

Update : 24 Apr 2013, 03:58 AM

Usually, an ambulance serves to carry a patient in a critical condition. Lately however, another use of the service has emerged on a vast scale during hartals: serving non-medical urgencies for the well-disposed such as corporates and high officials. The need for urgency for the busy and affluent is increasingly out paying regular people in irregular physical health.

Grameenphone (GP), the country’s largest mobile phone operator, hired more than 20 ambulances during the hartal called on April 10 as a mode of transport at the company’s 16th Annual General Meeting (AGM). Several months ago they also hired a number of ambulances to attend a prescheduled press conference. 

Like GP, many corporate houses now depend on the ambulance service on a hartal day for transportation. Though the ambulance service is not new, the demand of this service has increased even in other major cities across the country due to the frequent hartals of late.

Why the improper use? – Both passengers and the ambulance owners enjoy certain benefits from this new service. 

A safe journey by an ambulance makes a company’s operation smooth and in return the ambulance owner gets some extra financial benefits, beyond its usual service and income.

“All ambulances are booked for next hartal,” said Momen Khan, operator of Alif Ambulance Service, while talking to the Dhaka Tribune on Monday.

He also stated that all of their 11 ambulances would be busy during the two-day 36-hour hartal. “Normally many of our ambulances cannot manage a trip, but during hartal we have good business,” Momen added.

“Carrying a patient is our main concern but during hartals we usually serve businessmen and corporate people,” Monirul Islam of Apanjon Ambulance Service told the Dhaka Tribune over phone.

One of the ambulance service owners also said that despite not having many vehicles, they could arrange journeys as per the client’s requirements.

Industry insiders said that as the demand for an ambulance increased, many businessmen turned microbuses into ambulances to meet the demand.

Usually, many ambulances are found in front of the Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH), but yesterday the spot was almost empty.

Jamiul Islam, one of the ambulance owner in front of DMCH said: “Dozens of ambulances are normally parked on the roadside of DMCH but today, all of them are busy transporting passengers, not patients.”

Shahjalal International Airport has now become an ambulance hub during hartals. In-bound passengers including foreign guests commonly use an ambulance for safe transportation.

However, such alternative usage of ambulance naturally creates added suffering for patients in dire need of emergency medical care. Now patients also have to pay extra to use the service since demand has reached new heights because of hartals. 

Officials of some ambulance companies also alleged that some renowned hospitals are also engaged in this hartal business now.

However, Zia-ul Islam from Anjuman-E-Mufidul Islam claimed that they never serve anyone without patients. Ad-Din Hospital and Al-Markazul Islami Ambulance Service also condoned this business.

Yesterday, GP hired one ambulance for their transportation needs but Square Pharmaceuticals had to rent more. High officials of BTCL, the government owned telecommunication company, also used the ambulance service for their own transportation requirements.

Hotels use the service to transport their guests to different destinations, with corporate houses using them to maintain their efficiency in the market and others just for a safe ride. However if such improper use continues, the main reason for the service may diminish in efficacy, causing problems far worse than a missed meeting for those most in need of medical attention.

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