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December 8, 2010

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Crackdown on unlicensed ambulances

LOCAL health authorities will team up with police later this month to crack down on underground ambulances that illegally transport patients from Shanghai to other provinces, officials from the Shanghai Health Bureau said yesterday.

Health officials said the number of genuine ambulances in the city has increased to more than 500 in the past few years.

Most ambulances only transport patients within the city.

"For patients who want to go to other provinces by ambulance, they can apply to the Shanghai Medical Emergency Center for the service," said Song Guofan, a bureau official.

According to an investigation conducted by the medical emergency center earlier this year, there are about 30 underground ambulances in the city compared to 20 last year.

These underground ambulances are usually registered in other provinces. They don't have trained paramedics or proper medical equipment. The vehicles also don't undergo proper disinfection and sometimes such ambulances use cheap industrial oxygen, which is harmful to patients, especially those with respiratory diseases, insiders said.

Underground ambulance operators usually park in communities near big hospitals and attract business by distributing flyers near hospitals.

Shanghai Medical Emergency Center officials said there are 10 official ambulances for out-of-town transport. But the real need could be bigger, as many patients come all the way to Shanghgai hospitals, which generally feature better doctors and facilities.

Officials said they will try their best to meet patients' transportation requirements.

"Sometimes, patients just blindly follow the flyers and hire illegal ambulances because they are cheaper," Song said. "Patients should call official ambulances as underground ones can put patients at risk."

Underground ambulance operators face up to a 30,000 yuan (US$4,514)fine for operating without a license, said Wu Runyuan, an official with the traffic law enforcement team.


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