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Taxi meters to be fitted to ambulances

AMBULANCES in Songjiang District are being fitted with taxi meters so that patients and their families can check they are being charged fairly and not have to rely on the driver's calculations.

The Songjiang District Medical Emergency Center is the first in the city to introduce the new charging method. Fifteen of its ambulances have already been fitted with meters while the remaining seven would have them before the end of the month, Songjiang health officials said yesterday.

Usually, the charge is calculated by the driver according to the length of the journey. "Such methods may introduce mistakes and it is difficult to settle the issue if there is a dispute," said Wang Xingjian, director of the Songjiang District Medical Emergency Center.

He said his center had received some complaints from people due to different charges for transport to the same hospital. "We may have more complaints about the charge than downtown districts since the route is usually long from Songjiang to leading hospitals in downtown areas," he said.

"To solve the problem, we hired the Dazhong taxi company to install the same meters they use. We have received good feedback from patients and their families."

Officials from Shanghai Health Bureau said they would monitor how things go in Songjiang District before deciding whether to promote the practice citywide.

"It will be a big move to install fare meters in all local ambulances, which are special vehicles different from ordinary taxis," said Song Guofan, a city bureau official.

Current charges for an ambulance trip in the city include 30 yuan (US$4.39) for the first 3 kilometers, 6 yuan per kilometer after that, a 20 yuan first aid fee and charges for other services such as the use of medical equipment and medication.


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