In a heartrending incident, a man was forced to carry the body of his deceased son on his lap, riding pillion on a bike, for 90 km to his native village from Tirupati around midnight on Monday after a rowdy mob of ambulance drivers demanded that he cough up Rs 10,000 for the trip.
Not stopping at that, the ambulance drivers at the Ruia Hospital in Tirupati did not allow another ambulance sent by the man's relatives to carry the body.
The Ruia ambulance drivers beat up the other ambulance driver and chased him away, forcing the man to carry his son's body on the bike, all the way to his native village in neighbouring Annamayya district.
Stung by this incident, the state government placed the senior resident medical officer of Ruia Hospital under suspension and issued a show-cause notice to the hospital superintendent.
Police have been directed to identify the ambulance drivers, who regularly run riot at the hospital, and book criminal cases against them.
Tirupati district collector Venkata Ramana Reddy constituted a three-member official committee to inquire into the incident.
The committee, headed by the local revenue divisional officer, prima facie established the atrocious acts of the Ruia ambulance drivers.
The officials said they have so far identified four rogue drivers who were allegedly involved in the incident.
A farm labourer hailing from Chitveli village in Annamayya district, admitted his 10-year-old son for treatment following illness. The boy died late on Monday night due to renal failure. The labourer sought to engage an ambulance to shift his son's body to their village. The ambulance drivers demanded Rs 10,000 for the trip. Unable to bear the sum, the person called his relatives for help, who then sent another ambulance from their village.
When the ambulance reached the hospital, the local ambulance drivers allegedly beat up the other driver and chased him away. Left with no option, the farm labourer carried the body on his lap, riding pillion on a bike.
Reacting to the Tirupati incident, state Health Minister V. Rajini said an inquiry has been ordered to establish whether the hospital staff or private persons were involved in it.
Taking a serious view of the inhuman incident, the minister said stern action would be initiated against the guilty and none would be spared.
She said steps would be taken to control private ambulance services at government hospitals.
The opposition parties hit out strongly at the Jagan Mohan Reddy government over the Ruia incident.
The incident held a mirror to the pathetic state of healthcare in AP, Telugu Desam Party chief and Leader of Opposition N. Chandrababu Naidu said in a statement.
"This is a gross failure of the government. That a person was forced to carry the body of his deceased son on a bike was heinous," Naidu said.
Local TDP and BJP leaders staged a protest outside the hospital here and demanded effective steps to set things right.