Siren sounds on fake ambulances Guangdong police have arrested 18 people who use fake ambulances to transfer patients. Ha Quan / for China...
Siren sounds on fake ambulances
Guangdong police have arrested 18 people who use fake ambulances to transfer patients. Ha Quan / for China Daily
Guangzhou police have arrested 18 people who were illegally transferring patients between hospitals and cities with fake ambulances.
The fake ambulances had been transformed from ordinary vans using red crosses, sirens and medical equipment including stretchers, oxygen bottles and first-aid kits containing stethoscopes and disposable rubber gloves.
Guangzhou Daily cited a police officer surnamed Zhang from the police department of Yuexiu district in Guangzhou saying the suspects disguised themselves as doctors and nurses.
Zhang said the head of the group used to work in a hospital and she started running the illegal business in 2010 after discovering that local hospitals failed to meet patients' needs for ambulances when they wanted to get transferred to another hospital or another city.
The group fought violently with other gangs to take a bigger share of the market. The bloody conflicts attracted police attention and exposed the illegal industry, Zhang added.
The owner of a Guangzhou-based company that rents fake ambulances - who would only be identified by the surname Song - started the business a year ago after seeing the great market potential for the service.
"But we hire doctors and nurses working in hospitals, or at least medical college grads, to accompany the patient on the way if he or she makes the request and is willing to pay for it," Song told China Daily.
"These medical professionals love to get some extra income," Song said.
"Especially in big cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, migrant workers who don't have enough money to stay in large hospitals need vehicles to send them back to their hometowns," said Song. "But most hospitals don't have such services."
China Daily asked three large hospitals in Guangzhou, and only one of the three, The First Affiliated Hospital of Guangzhou Medical University, seems to offer patients the service.
"We have one ambulance to transfer patients between hospitals within Guangzhou and another one to transfer them between cities. It's not enough," said a worker surnamed Deng at the hospital who did not want to be identified.
"So those patients who desire a timely transfer will turn to renting illegal ambulances," said the worker. "But patients could be in great danger if they become ill on the way without being accompanied by medical professionals and qualified equipment."
Song's company has already assisted more than 2,300 patients.
"The market for ambulances to carry patients between hospitals and cities is now dominated by privately owned small companies like us," said Song. "But it isn't true that we can earn big profits from doing this business."
According to information from the just-dismantled group, it costs a patient 2,000 yuan ($317) to travel from downtown Guangzhou to Panyu district, the city's suburban area.
"However, we have to give part of the revenue to the doctors and nurses we hire and to the people in the hospital who help us get the business," said Song.
Song revealed that medical workers and guards in the hospital will recommend a specific company's service to the patients, and they certainly require payment.
"Each group takes control of a specific hospital, handing out advertisements around wards," said Song.
Han Zhipeng, a member of the Guangzhou Committee of Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, said the government needs to do more than just wipe out the gangs and the illegal ambulance rental companies.
"The patients do need the service. Governments should consider subsidizing the hospitals to offer the service," said Han.
"If not, governments should put forward laws to regulate the ambulance rental market and clarify which government departments are in charge of the regulation."
"This is also a good solution to the lack of ambulance services in hospitals if the companies are able to offer qualified and safe services."