Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Ambulance deal: CWG OC, Fortis trade blows

The Delhi government is preparing to initiate legal formalities to close its joint venture with the Fortis Hospitals to roll out 150 ambulances before the Commonwealth Games.

The deal had been stalled earlier as the state Health department reportedly found the first batch of vehicles and the equipment installed in them ‘not up to the mark’.

According to sources, the Delhi government was never in discussion with the private partner (Fortis) until a prototype ambulance was presented in December 2008 — a month before the first batch of 75 ambulances were to be delivered.

Blaming Fortis Hospitals for the fiasco, state Health minister Kiran Walia said, “We awarded the tender to the lowest bidder, Fortis. There was no communication from them. They kept delaying until December when the first ambulance was presented to us.”

In their defence, the Fortis Hospitals maintains the Delhi government took four months — from July 13 to October 31 in 2008 — to give specifications of the prototype. “At every step Fortis was working in conjunction with the state government. There has been no delay from our side at any point. As far as the quality of our ambulances goes, we are ready to place one ambulance in each of the Fortis Hospitals for anyone to inspect,” a Fortis official said.

The Health minister, meanwhile, has said all ambulances offered by Fortis is “sub-standard” and said her department will soon initiate closure proceedings in the Fortis ambulance joint venture.

Walia also maintained that the “whole city had congratulated her for taking a strong stand against Fortis”.

The Delhi government has already cancelled the registration of the prototype ambulance, which was booked in the name of Principal Secretary (Health) J P Singh.

In a strongly worded statement, the Health minister said, “They (Fortis) had pleaded with us in writing to give them a second chance. But the ambulances, which are supposedly ‘improved upon’, are also below the standards we had set. They are not fit to be a part of Delhi’s healthcare system. They have been rejected twice and we will soon start the legalities to close the deal,” she said.

Cancellation of deal months before the Commonwealth Games, meanwhile, has raised questions.

“The last-minute cancellations just shows the Health department was sleeping from July to October,” said an expert in the Delhi Secretariat who has been involved with the public private partnership.

Ambulances not up to the mark: Govt
  • No air-conditioning in the prototype ambulance
  • No power steering
  • Equipment installed of inferior quality and of Chinese make
  • Ambulance size not as per specification

Government caught napping: Critic
  • Why did the government take four months to take a decision on the prototype ambulance?
  • Why did the two committees — Special and Empowered — approve the ambulances in principle after inspecting them in October and December 2009?
  • Why were the deficiencies not spotted before the January 9, 2010 inspection by the Core committee?


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