KARACHI, Sept 16: After remaining a part of the convoys of VVIPs for many months, the new ventilator-fitted ambulance bought for over Rs6 million has now returned to the parking lot of the Civil Hospital Karachi after it developed a major fault, it emerged on Sunday.
The ambulance was one of the eight ambulances equipped with life-support machines and then handed over to the CHK last November.
However, according to observers, the ambulance — the first facility of its kind — was not used for the advantage of the patients but remained with the police department which used it as part of the protocol of dignitaries and senior government officials who visited Karachi from time to time.
This happened despite stern warnings by Sindh Health Minister Dr Sagheer Ahmed. While delivering the keys of eight ventilator-fitted ambulances to the medical superintendents of public hospitals across the province at a ceremony, the health minister had warned the hospitals that the vehicles must not be used by families for shopping but for its intended purposes only.
Stressing their proper utilisation, the minister had reminded the health officials that the ambulances must not be used for administrative purposes or for personal use by hospital bosses since the health department had acquired them despite cash-flow problems to ensure that people did not die on their way to hospital due to unavailability of proper transport. “I have reports that ambulances have been used for domestic purposes, even for buying groceries. This should stop now,” said Dr Ahmed at the ceremony.
According to a health official, after the ambulances were bought, they had to gather dust in the open on the government premises for about three months, because the health department had not found “any appropriate occasion or a chief guest” for handing over the ambulance to hospitals. The source added that the CHK ambulance had been left once again to the mercy of the elements.
Though official concerned expressed their inability to say anything about the development on record, Dawn learnt that the CHK ambulance was parked at the hospital’s parking lot for two months as the staff was trying to get it registered with the excise department. After that it was picked up for VVIP and other duties.
Even when the ambulance was being used by the police, the CHK bore the cost of its maintenance, including the cost of lubricants, said a leader of the medical wing of a political party. For the past some days, the ambulance had been parked near the administration block of the hospital. Police officials had even put their own large insignia on the vehicle – Police-Ambulance 1, which obliterated the name of the CHK. Had the van not developed a fault, there was no hope of it returning to the hospital, said another source at the hospital.
In their efforts to take control of the ambulance once again, the CHK authorities have put its name back on the ambulance.
Meanwhile, the hospital is scrambling to allocate about Rs100,000 from its hard-earned finances to get the ambulance in working condition.