350 calls go unattended during '108' stir

Ambulance staff return to work wearing black badges; want Limbavali to apologise

Over 350 emergency calls made from 9 pm on Wednesday to 10 am on Thursday were not attended to by the ‘108’ emergency services of GVK EMRI, following the statewide agitation by the emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and pilots (drivers) after a spat with Health Minister Aravind Limbavali.

Confirming that a considerable number of emergency calls were not attended to by the call centres in the back office of EMRI, Jagadish Patil, operations head in Karnataka, said that since the staff members were on strike, the ambulance services were suspended for a night.

The EMTs and pilots had suspended their services following a face-off with Limbavali on August 28 in Bagalkot. According to a statement by the health department, an ambulance, which was supposed to be used only for emergency services, was misused by a staff member in Bagalkot.

The statement says Limbavali was on a private visit to Bagalkot on August 28 to meet his sister and brother. The staff of EMRI were following him in an ambulance to submit a list of demands through a memorandum.

According to R Sridhar, State president of the EMRI staff association, the strike was called following the health minister’s rude behaviour towards the EMTs and pilots in Bagalkot. Eraiah Ganachari, an ambulance driver, had attempted suicide following his suspension. He is recuperating at a private hospital.

“The staff just wanted to meet the minister. But, instead of listening to their problems, the minister abused them. The staff were deeply hurt by the minister’s behaviour and called for a protest,” he said.

Sridhar said ambulance services were suspended only for a night and resumed in full strength Thursday morning. However, these staff members would continue to protest wearing black badges till their demands were fulfilled.

Sridhar said they wanted job security, all facilities enjoyed by government employees, hike in salaries and revocation of the suspension of the staff in Bagalkot.

An EMRI spokesperson confirmed that all staff members would be given their annual increment of 10 per cent for this year.

Employees of ‘108’ emergency services resumed work on Thursday, but continued their protest wearing black badges.  

They demanded that Limbavali should apologise for his objectionable remarks against the leaders of the Arogya Kavacha Employees' Association.

Office-bearers of the association, Anand Kattimani and Srishaila Hoogara, said the protesting employees were back to work to avoid inconvenience to people in rural areas.
However, Bagalkot district in-charge Minister Govind Karjol defended his ministerial colleague saying: "Limbavali couldn't have made such comments and misbehaved with the employees."

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