GVK EMRI threatens to hire new staff if strike does not end

Even as the strike called by the drivers and the staff nurses who run 108 ambulance services entered the 10th day on Sunday, GVK EMRI, the private agency that runs the service along with the government, continues to run the services with temporary staff, which includes drivers from the transport department and nurses from government hospitals. As the number of calls has been steady, the officials point out the need to make alternative arrangements to attend to emergencies.

In spite of the strike, the phones at the 108 helpline have not stopped ringing. It is noon on Sunday and 577 of the 684 emergency calls have been attended to. Picking up a call, Mangala S., an Emergency Response Officer says, “Namskara, 108. Any emergency? ”

The caller at the other end informs her of an accident at Narasapura in Kolar where 10 people have been injured. Within a minute, she despatches two ambulances stationed at Malur and Narasapura after briefing the ambulance drivers about the case. The authorities claimed that both the ambulances reached the spot within 15 minutes. Apart from accident cases, the helpline was abuzz with calls of a man consuming poison at Sunkadakatte, cardiac arrest suffered by a man at K.R. Pet in Mandya, an accident at Masti hobli in Malur taluk of Kolar district.

Threat to hire new staff

Officials of GVK EMRI have threatened to hire fresh recruits if the staff refuse to call off their strike. “We cannot wait for long. The striking staff may have to face disciplinary action. We can recruit, but we will wait for a day or two for them to return to work,” Jagadish Patil, State Head, GVK EMRI, said.

Currently, the private agency has been managing the services with the help of KSRTC and BMTC staff. To provide basic first aid to the patients, nurses from the government hospitals have been roped in to man the 509 ambulances that are running in the State.

Intervention sought

Meanwhile, families of patients also emphasised the need for the government to intervene and ensure that the services are not affected.

Glory J., a resident of Goripalya, said that she had to rush her brother, who had consumed poison to hospital in an auto as she feared that the 108 services would not reach on time because of the strike. Another patient, Shekhar S. who lives in K.R. Puram and had developed weakness and breathlessness said, “I made a call to the 108 ambulance services but I did not get a call back from the officials so I took the bus and came to the hospital as I could not wait any longer,” he added.

A staff at the Bowring and Lady Curzon Hospital said that the frequency of the 108 ambulances had reduced since the strike began. “Moreover, the drivers are not regular employees and take time to understand and get used to the situation. The government needs to resolve the issue. They cannot wash their responsibility away as it is a public service,” the source said.

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