The Supreme Court on Friday (September 11) directed the states to fix a reasonable charge for providing ambulance services to COVID-19 patients.
The top court’s direction came after hearing a PIL filed by an organisation ‘Earth’ alleging that exorbitant rates are being charged for ambulances from suspected and confirmed coronavirus patients.
A bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan took note of the submissions of Solicitor General Tushar Mehta that the Union health ministry had already issued the SOP in this regard and said all states “will have to implement it”.
“It is obligatory for all the states to follow the SOP and take appropriate measures with regard to augmenting the capacity of ambulances,” said the bench, also comprising Justices R Subhash Reddy and M R Shah.
However, the petitioner argued the SOP does not cover the pricing aspect of ambulances and this should be fixed as hospitals are charging exorbitantly and arbitrarily.
“State government will fix reasonable charge and all ambulances will be provided on that charge,” the bench said and disposed of the PIL.
The bench noted some states are not implementing the SOP and patients are at the mercy of others. Some are being charged ₹7,000 and sometimes up to ₹50,000 for ambulance services, it noted during the hearing.
The Centre had on March 29 laid down the SOP on various issues including for medical staff attending to or transporting a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19. The SOP was also meant to guide and train ambulance drivers and technicians in transporting COVID-19 patients.
(With inputs from agencies)