LUDHIANA: In a relief to patients and their relatives, the indefinite strike by employees of the company handling 108 Ambulance service ended on Thursday after officials accepted their demand to take back employees, who were terminated from services for going on a strike.
But, the service remained suspended during the day with employees staging a protest at the civil hospital while parking the ambulances inside the hospital premises. The ambulance service of NGO Samvedna Trust helped patients reach other hospitals.

The Employees Association 108 Punjab Ambulance Service decided to withdraw the strike after a meeting with health officials on Thursday.

The employees of Ziqitza Healthcare Limited (ZHL), the company handling the ambulance service, went on a strike at the state-level, demanding regular salary, eight-hour duty, EPF share in their accounts and increments for the past five years.

Employees first went on 12-hour strike on Wednesday, but when the company terminated services of 123 employees, they decided to extend the strike for an indefinite period.

ZHL project head Saikat Mukherjee said employees ended the strike on Thursday. He said they would reinstate the employees who were terminated, but on the condition that they would not go on strike again in the future as their work is of emergency nature.

The chairman of employees association 108 (Punjab), Vikram Singh Saini, said a meeting was held with the MD of Punjab Health System Corporation (PHSC) and National Health Mission Varun Roonjam over this issue after which it was decided to end the strike and re-appointment of employees.

He said another meeting would take place on July 16 to decide on other demands. Their leadership has conveyed the MD that in case their demands are not fulfilled, employees of the company from the region would go on a strike, he added.

NGO’s ambulance comes the rescue

Box: Ludhiana civil hospital referred a newborn to the PGI, Chandigarh, but as 108 Ambulance was not available, the baby was shifted in an ambulance of Samvedna Trust. Infant’s father Sushil Kumar said, “My son was put on oxygen due to some complication after delivery and doctors advised us to take the baby to PGI. If the NGO’s ambulance would not have been there, then I don’t know what I would have done. I did not have money to hire private ambulance.”

Pvt ambulances cash in on situation

Box: With the strike of 108 ambulance staff, private ambulance operators used the opportunity to mint money from patients and their relatives. They charged Rs 2200 to 2500 from every patient, sources said. A relatives of patient Raj Kumar said his uncle had to be shifted to Rajindra Hospital in Patiala, but as the 108 ambulance was not available and even Samvedna ambulance was sent to PGI, they sought service of a private ambulance, which charged them Rs 2,800 for the trip. He said he had to pay the amount as there was no other option at that time.

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