Rawalpindi-Private ambulances are charging huge fares from members of bereaved families to transport bodies from hospitals as the number of official vehicles available especially at 3 allied hospitals are insufficient to meet the demand.

A large number of private ambulances can be witnessed lined-up in front of emergency wards of Holy Family Hospital, Benazir Bhutto Hospital and District Headquarters Hospital Rawalpindi.

A private ambulance owner, requesting anonymity, said that 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 hover around the wards and, as soon as a patient dies, approach the relatives to offer their services. As a business trick, he said that many drivers pretended to be shocked and grieved over the death and even wept with the members of the bereaved family. Sardar Hussain, another driver of a private ambulance at Holy Family Hospital, said that normally they charged Rs1,000 to Rs1,200 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 Rs4,000 to Rs5,000 to transport the bodies.

Lower staffers of the hospitals have started running their own ambulance services because they get on the spot business. Ambulance services of non-government organisations and volunteer bodies are not available immediately, or during odd hours.

The Edhi Ambulance Service, which charges reasonable prices, is also short of vans and it takes time to provide service.

Every year, a lot of money is allocated for purchase of ambulances for the Health Department. However, official ambulances are seldom available, or only available to the influential. People have appealed to the government to rectify the situation to save them from private ‘ambulance mafia’, which allegedly enjoys the patronage of the city hospitals’ authorities