Unable to find eligible partners to run the 108 Arogya Kavacha ambulance service, the State Health Department has now outsourced the task of preparing the new tender document to Infrastructure Development Corporation (Karnataka) Ltd. (iDeCK).
This follows poor response to tenders floated by the department ever since it terminated its contract with GVK-EMRI (Emergency Management and Research Institute) in 2017.
The private consultancy firm will draft a tender document and assist the department in preparing a ‘Request For Proposal’ (RFP) for a new service provider and this is being done at a cost of Rs. 1.4 crore.
“The firm will assist us in the bid management process as we are looking at participation from across the country. This is being planned keeping the needs of patients in mind for the next five years. All loopholes and deficiencies in the previous bid management process will be set right,” Health Commissioner Pankaj Kumar Pandey told The Hindu on Saturday.
“The firm has been asked to submit the document by December-end after which we will give it to the Cabinet for approval. The bid management process will begin after that,” he said.
The new tender document will be aimed at redesigning the ambulance service through professional standards and technology-enabled systems. “We are working on putting in place a system-generated Service Level Agreement (SLA) process that will avoid manual interventions and fudging of data. To advance the first response time of the service, each ambulance will be installed with GPS and an online monitoring system,” said an official with EMRI.
Biometrics for drivers and staff, electronic health recorder to know the service being given to the patient, and a mobile application to lodge complaints will also be put in place, the official said.
“There have been complaints about drivers charging money from patients, unnecessarily taking a longer route and dropping the patient in a private hospital for commission (although a government hospital is nearby), or behaving rudely if patients refuse to pay. The new technology-enabled system will end all these malpractices,” the official explained.
The government entered into an agreement with GVK-EMRI in 2008 for 10 years on the PPP model. Under the arrangement, ambulance infrastructure was provided by the government while the company ran the service.
On July 14, 2017, the Health Department terminated its association with the company citing irregularities and violation of tender conditions. The company was asked to serve a three-month notice period till October 13. Subsequently, the department had invited tenders for a new service provider and the last date to apply was September 9, 2017.
Meanwhile, the company approached the High Court of Karnataka challenging the termination of their service before the expiry of the 10-year contract period.
The company also contended that in the fresh tenders, the conditions were such that GVK was unable to participate. The High Court ruled that the company should be allowed to participate in the tender process.
Subsequently, last December the department relaxed tender conditions citing poor response to the tenders (only two bidders had participated). After this, GVK-EMRI was asked to continue providing services till January 31, 2018.
Thereafter, the re-tendering process was further delayed due to Assembly elections and the company was again asked to continue till further orders.