While family members wait for hours to receive the bodies of their dead loved ones, four bodies are packed into a single ambulance. This has been the scene at the Coimbatore Medical College Hospital for the last two days, thanks to an unexplained shortage of ambulances.
M Parasuraman, a daily wage labourer, said that he had been waiting for over five hours on Friday morning to get an ambulance to take his father’s body to Thiruvannamalai district. “My father died yesterday (Thursday) evening after a lorry hit him when he was coming back from work. The post-mortem is over, but there is no ambulance to take my father’s body to our home. I do not even have any money to get an ambulance from private companies, which charge around Rs. 15,000 to Rs 20,000,” he said.
Many of the anxiously waiting families of the deceased claim that even though four or five ambulances are idly waiting on the hospital premises, only one vehicle is being used to transport the dead.
One 28-year-old man said, “My uncle passed away yesterday evening and the post-mortem was done by around 11pm, but there is no ambulance available. One ambulance came at around 5am, but it was already taking four bodies. We have to take the body all the way to Tiruvarur district.”
The relatives said that the ambulance drivers have been claiming a shortage of diesel for the other ambulances being kept idle. However, one waiting family member said, “We told them that we will fill the diesel on the way, but they are still not ready to take the dead bodies to our houses.”
Sekharan, hailing from Coimbatore, said that the hospital authorities have been fobbing them off with repeated promises of an ambulance soon. He said that he had been waiting from 11am till 5pm for an ambulance on Thursday. “My relative passed away and we have been waiting from the morning. The administration keeps saying that it will come in half an hour or one hour. We were even ready to put diesel or pay extra money but no ambulance is coming,” he said.
For their part, the hospital authorities have refused to take the blame for the long delays, and pinned responsibility on the distriction administration, which manages the ambulance service. “We have contacted the Collector and he told us that there are some management issues with the people who are providing these services, but it will be resolved (on Friday),” said Ashokan, Dean of Coimbatore Medical College Hospital.