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Ambulance services in HP remain hit as employees' strike enters Day 5


Press Trust of India Shimla
Ambulance services in Himachal Pradesh remained affected as a strike by employees entered fifth day today despite the state government imposing the Essential Services Maintenance Act in 11 out of total 12 districts.
The state government said it had made alternative arrangements for running ambulances to avoid inconvenience to the patients.
Several employees of GVK EMRI (Emergency Management and Research Institute), which runs the 108 and 102 services, went on strike on Monday.
Ambulance drivers and emergency medical technicians (EMTs) who provide pre-hospital care to patients are accusing the organisation of not paying them enough for the long hours they keep.
They have demanded that ambulance workers be covered under a government policy, as in Haryana, to ensure they work only for eight hours.
Supporting the striking employees, the CPI(M) has demanded that state government immediately cancel its memorandum of understanding (MoU) with GVK EMRI for running the 108 and 102 ambulances.
"GVK EMRI has failed to discharge its duty of running the ambulances uninterruptedly and smoothly in the state as it is exploiting its employees," alleged CPI(M) MLA Rakesh Singha.
Singha told PTI that the state government should immediately cancel its MoU with GVK EMRI, should stop privatisation of essential services and take over ambulance services.
The state office of National Health Mission (NHM) may be handed over the responsibility of running these ambulances for the betterment of general public as well as striking employees on Haryana pattern, he added.
Ambulance services have been run by GVK EMRI in the state since 2010 and a new MoU was signed with the firm in 2017 for the next five years, said NHM state mission director Pankaj Rai.
"I have also talked to my counterpart in Haryana, I was told that ambulance services had been run there by NHM since the beginning of the 108 ambulances," he added.
To a query, Rai told PTI, "How can the MoU be cancelled with GVK EMRI midway. They have successfully responded to over 10 lakh emergency calls till now."

"We have made alternative arrangements for running ambulances in the state. Firstly, home gaurd drivers have been deputed to run ambulances. Secondly, 161 Rashtirya Bal Suraksha Karyakaram (RBSK) ambulances have been put on stand by mode and thirdly, we have engaged ambulances run by NGOs across the state," he added.
As many as 134 ambulances are being run in the state so far despite strike by its employees, he claimed.
"We have already facilitate three meetings of GVK EMRI and the employees but to no avail so far. Now it's up to them to see how to solve the crisis," he said.
Meanwhile, terming the employees' strike as illegal, GVK EMRI has issued a warning to them through advertisement in local papers that their services will be terminated if they do not return to work.
Employees union head Pooran Chandra told PTI that they would continue their strike till their demand of taking services in its purview on Haryana pattern was met. "What is the benefit of running 108 ambulances with homegaurd drivers but without EMTs as serious patients will not be provided pre-hospital care?" the union leader asked.
A group of CITU workers joined the striking ambulance employees in their sit-in near secretariat here today.

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First Published: Jun 29 2018 | 4:50 PM IST

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