‘Free’ Ambulance Service – Comes at a Cost in Sitamarhi

Sonbarsa, Bathnaha, Riga block, Sitamarhi District. No diesel, or no ambulance available – these are the excuses that pregnant women are given when they call the ambulance services here. The women have had to make their way to the closest health centre themselves: so they may have received their 1400 rupees for delivering their babies in hospital, as per the Janani Suraksha Yojana, but they had to pay to get it.

Madhuri Devi of Sonbarsa block said that a few months ago, when her daughter-in-law was about to deliver her baby, they called for the ambulance and were told that it wasn’t available. The Primary Health Centre was around 7 kms away, so she spent 350 rupees to take her there. Rinku Devi and Kaushalya Devi of Bathnaha block said, ‘It’s one thing if the patient lives close to the health centre, but what about patients who are far away? And to take a pregnant woman to the hospital by motorcycle or rickshaw is dangerous.’Officials – careless or helpless? Adita Kumar, the health official in Bathnaha said that, despite their repeated requests, in two years, there has not been an ambulance provided in the block. In Riga, the health official said ‘We have the 102 Ambulance available, but it has been out of working order for the past 10 months.’In Tariyani block of Sheohar district, the health official, ‘When we have money for diesel, we send the ambulance. If there isn’t any money, what are we to do? The Chief Medical officer Om Prakash Panjiyar said that there were 12 ambulances in the district, of which 9 are in working condition – one for each block. There is no statement from the government that says that patients should pay for the ambulance.

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