Centre to pump in Rs 125 cr for emergency ambulance services

Weeks after the visit of Congress president Sonia Gandhi to Palghar to launch the children's health plan, the Centre has decided to pump in Rs 125 crore to set up emergency ambulance services in urban areas. This money was to be spent by the state government. A total of 247 GPS-enabled ambulances will be made available in urban areas.

During her visit to Palghar along with Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, Sonia Gandhi had praised the working of the state health ministry. An official from the health ministry said that Azad spoke to State Health Minister Suresh Shetty after which he decided to provide aid under the Emergency Medical and Referral Services for making state ambulances available.

The plan was first announced by the state government in September 2011, taking note of the number of accidents on the state's highways. At that time, 937 ambulances (each costing Rs 16 lakh) were to be acquired under the National Rural Health Mission to provide medical emergency facilities in rural areas. At that time, 40 per cent of the cost of the exercise had to be borne by the state government and the remaining by the centre.

In May 2012, this plan was extended to all major municipal corporations Mumbai, Thane, Aurangabad, Pune, Pimpri-Chinchwad, Nashik and Nagpur and the cost of implementing this was pegged at an additional Rs125 crore which will now be borne by the Centre. "The Centre will make a provision for the same in the upcoming Union budget," an official said. Owing to problems in the tender procedure and lack of response from bidders, this plan under the Maharashtra Emergency Medical Services Project is yet to take off. Later after the re-bid in August 2011, BVG India was found technically capable of handling the project. However, other bidders took the matter to the HC and later the SC wherein the decision was in the favour of the state government. The process was resumed in October last year but the state is yet to acquire any ambulances.

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