Bihar’s ambulance service staff go on strike

They have not been paid salaries for six months; private companies operating services under PPP model blame government

By Alok Gupta
Published: Wednesday 12 February 2014

Ambulance services employees in Bihar have gone on strike, crippling medical services in the state. Employees of ambulance services, 102, proceeded on strike on February 6. On Tuesday night, employees of ambulance services, 1099, also proceeded on strike.

Striking employees claim they have not been paid salary for the past six months. Apart from payment of salaries, provident fund contribution by the employers is not being deposited.

Vijay Ranjan, spokesperson of striking drivers and medical staff association, said employees had been warning about payment of salaries for the past three months. "We also went on strike in January to highlight our demand," he said.

Bihar has three major ambulance services, operated by Jain Video on Wheels (JVOW), 1099, operated by Samman Foundation, and 108, operated by Ziqitza Healthcare. All the three services were launched under public-private partnership mode under the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM).

Purshottam Verma, CEO of Bihar JVOW, said the state government has been lax in releasing funds for over eight months. "We can pay salary to employees only when state government makes payment to us," he said.

JVOW operates 538 ambulances in the state, and caters to around 7,500 patients in a month. The company has approached Patna High Court to resolve the payment dispute.

On Tuesday night, drivers and medical staff of 1099 that operates 95 ambulances also proceeded on strike. They issued a press statement, saying they have not been paid salary since their appointment in October 2012.

In a bid to resolve the issue, Bihar State Health Society has ordered JVOW to return all ambulances to District Health Society. Sanjay Singh, executive director of State Health Society, said that payment of salary is not a state issue. Under the agreement, payment of salary is sole subject of operators.

"We have asked the operators to return the vehicles to the health societies in the district. Government will try to operate the services till the matter is resolved," he said.

The solution the state government has arrived at may not resolve the problem. Ranjan pointed out that district administration in a negotiation has promised that a monthly salary of Rs 7,000 and Rs 7,500 would be paid to drivers and medical staffs respectively.

Ranjan said that JVOW is paying monthly salary of Rs 8,000 to 10,000 to drivers depending on seniority. "It's very difficult to accept the offer of Rs 7,000," he said.

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