900 drivers, paramedics of '108' may lose jobs

The GVK EMRI - which runs the ‘108’ Arogya Kavacha ambulance service - on Monday said that they plan to discontinue the services of about 900 ambulance drivers and paramedics and replace then with new staff.

The company has sought that drivers and paramedics sign an undertaking promising disciplined behaviour, attending calls without shying away from duty and not seeking bribe from patients or their family members among others. Should a situation arise where the drivers do not wish to discharge their duties, the GVK EMRI has alternative plans of filling the posts temporarily with KSRTC drivers and staff nurses in the government sector.

Addressing a press conference here, Syed Suhale Parveez, senior manager of GVK EMRI, said that the decision had been taken after the State government sent several audits and expressed dissatisfaction with the quality of service provided by ‘108’ ambulances.

Among the several concerns that the government has raised about the ambulance service, Parveez said that the drivers and paramedics were not well groomed, did not wear uniforms even when provided, ambulance hygiene was not maintained, behaved rudely with patients, switched off their vehicles at night and slept, demanded bribe from patients who travel long distances, admitted patients to private hospitals by misguiding them (for personal benefits), refused to attend cases by switching phones off, frequently visited government offices and caused trouble, utilised ambulance for personal travel, harassed fellow employees and collected money from them in the name of employees’ welfare association.

According to Parveez, after the government submitted the report to them eight months ago, several warnings were given to employees against whom complaints were lodged. Despite that, many did not mend their ways because of which they had to give an undertaking that they would not indulge in any acts which are against their contract terms nor act in a manner that defames GVK EMRI, he said.

So far, 200 employees have signed the undertaking form issued to them. The government approved an employee appraisal budget of Rs 6.64 crore on January 14. On signing the form, the employees would be eligible for a pay hike.

While the drivers are drawing a basic salary of Rs 8,600 to Rs 12,000 after the hike, paramedics are earning anywhere between Rs 8,900 and Rs 14,000.

Meanwhile, close to 1,500 staff of ‘108’ are on a indefinite protest at Freedom Park from Monday. Even as they would not stop the essential service, they said that they would not budge till their demands are looked into.

Anand Katti, secretary, Karnataka 108 Ambulance Drivers’ Association, said that apart from the hike, they sought that the State pay them for overtime duty. “We work for more than 10 hours. After eight hours, we ought to be paid extra,” he said.

The undertaking, a copy of which is with Deccan Herald, also mandates that the employees do not speak to the media or the government about their grievances.

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