From March 1 this year, ambulances carrying patients will not have to pay toll on roads, ferries, and bridges under the Roads and Highways Department.
Road Transport and Bridges Ministry yesterday issued a circular in this regard, Nazrul Islam, secretary to the road transport and highway division (RTHD) told The Daily Star.
“This is one of the initiatives the ministry has taken to mark ‘Mujib Borsho’ [the birth centenary of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman],” he said.
The circular said tolls would be waived both for the government and private ambulances on the condition that the service providers would deduct the amount from the ambulance fare.
Following a directive from Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader, the RTHD on October 10 last year wrote to the finance ministry seeking its consent to keep ambulance outside the purview of toll collection.
The finance ministry approved the proposal in November last year.
In December, the road transport ministry sent a letter to the health ministry asking to take necessary measures to implement the decision.
Copies of yesterday’s circular were sent, among others, to the cabinet secretary, principal secretary to the prime minister, secretaries of public administration, health, finance and home and the chief engineer of RHD.
But there is still uncertainty over whether people would get the expected benefits from the initiative as there is no fare chart or guideline for private ambulance operations.
The question also remains about how the private ambulance operators would adjust this waiver.
Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) has already written to all directors of medical colleges and specialised hospitals, superintendents of all district hospitals, and civil surgeons to take necessary measures in this regard.
“We have instructed all civil surgeons to inform all private medical facilities, including clinics, about the initiative,” Aminul Hasan, director (hospital) of DGHS, told The Daily Star yesterday.
Asked how they would ensure the deduction of toll by private ambulances, he said, “Most of the private ambulances are affiliated with private medical facilities, and our civil surgeons would instruct them in this regard.”
According to Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA), total 6424 ambulances were registered with it until December last year.
However, Dhaka Mohanagar Ambulance Malik Somobay Samity Ltd, a Dhaka-based organisation of ambulance owners, says over 8,500 private ambulances are now in operation, meaning many ambulances are operating without registration.
“We are happy that the government finally took the decision. We have been demanding it for long,” Sariful Alam Mehdi, adviser of the Samity, told this newspaper after learning about the development.
He, however, demanded the government immediately fix the fares for each type of ambulance under a guideline so that people get the full benefit of the initiative.
He also demanded the government would make the bridges under Bangladesh Bridge Authority (BBA) and ferries run by Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Corporation (BIWTC) toll-free.
Currently, there are 62 bridges and 39 ferry terminals under the supervision of the RHD. The BIWTC runs five ferry terminals while the BBA administers two bridges.