Don't refuse free ambulances to sexual assault victims, pregnant women: Govt

A little over a week after taking charge, the Delhi government has ordered "transparent and improved" operation of 150 ambulances under the Centralised Accident and Trauma Service (CATS).

In an order issued by the new project director of CATS, the government has directed ambulances be sent on priority basis, free of cost, to rape victims, victims of sexual assault, and pregnant women, among others. The move aims to "ensure effective and efficient ambulance service to the public".

The order has been sent to all zonal ambulance officers and senior officials in the directorate of health services. It states that besides responding to calls from accident or trauma victims, CATS ambulances are "mandated to transport to and back pregnant women and sick neonates (newborns) from the hospitals to their homes, free of charge". It further states that free ambulances be provided to the "victims of sexual offences to visit the hospital in connection with MLC/treatment and related legal formalities. Further, CATS ambulance shall be made available to such victims and family members accompanying the victims to the nearest hospital, and also dropping the victims at their residence along with escorting family members".

The order also said ambulances should respond to "all calls from the DUSIB on priority basis and shift the needy person from road/other sites to nearest night shelter of DUSIB or hospital as per directions from DUSIB. The order directs that ambulance be provided to victims of vitriolage or acid attack, free of cost".

This order has come in the backdrop of a revamp on the CATS website, where contact details of senior officials, including the manager of the control room, and zonal ambulance officials have been put up, with enumeration of various service rules like mandatory transfers after a stipulated period across different zones.

"These functions have been mandated when the CATS programme was conceptualised in 1984, but according to the feedback the health minister has received, these rules were not being followed. Ambulances would only respond to trauma calls, but other mandatory areas of service were being ignored. Calls from victims of sexual assault and other women and children would be frequently refused," a senior official in CATS explained.

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