A government order asking doctors and para-medic staff working with Directorate of Health Services to pay fuel charges for ambulances that were used by them for attending 'essential duties' amid official restrictions and shutdown when both the private and public transport was off the roads has drawn flak from doctors.
For past three months, doctors and other medical staff of Health Services Department has been utilizing the service of the department vehicles, ambulances and staff cabs, to travel from their residences to the hospitals and other medical centres. But now the government has issued orders that all the staff members of the directorate who used the vehicles have to pay charges for using it.
Multiple delegations of doctors at Greater Kashmir complained that government, instead of rewarding them for the 'unrelenting service' that they rendered in the past 87 days, was 'punishing' them. "We have been asked to pay for the ambulance rides which are necessary because we cannot take any other transport to hospital," said a doctor, who was part of a delegation. He added that doctors were asked to pay as much as Rs 600 per ride if the ambulance was required for travel during late evening hours.
"If we are in a hospital for an emergency and need to be dropped home later than the routine, we are asked to pay for the entire vehicle and that amount is quite hefty," a senior doctor working in a district hospital said.
Doctors and medicos demanded that government waive off these charges and help the medicos carry on with their duties. "We are an emergency service and we understand that. We are not asking for any favor but facilitation by government to deliver in this time of crisis," a physician working with DHSK said, adding, "Government instead of recognizing the contribution is extorting money from us."
Doctors alleged that government was having a partisan approach towards the medical fraternity. "All government employees who have not attended a single day of office in the past three months will get their salaries sitting at home. But the doctors, nurses and allied staff, who have risked their lives and not let the patients and injured suffer are being asked to shell out money," another doctor employed with DHSK said.
While officials in DHSK rubbished the complaints of doctors with the argument that doctors were getting Housing and Rental Allowances and even accommodation at 'most hospitals', they insisted that recovering fuel charges had become imperative.
"We are not sitting on a mountain of funds at the Directorate. We have limited resources and we have to sustain these and not exhaust everything on buying petrol for ambulances," a senior official in Health and Medical Education Department said.
When contacted, the Director Health Services, Kashmir, Dr Saleem ur Rehman while refuting that doctors were being asked to pay 'for the entire vehicle' said they are being asked to pay 'a bare minimum as fuel charges' for utilizing hospital transport service.
He, however, clarified that the charges are not for the past three months but from now onwards.