Ziqitza Healthcare Limited, which runs the 24 x7 108 ambulance service, has served a one-month termination notice on its 200-odd employees in the state. Ziqitza’s four-year contract (three years plus one-year extension) will end on October 15.
“Since there was no intimation from the state government on the future course of action, we had no choice but to put our employees on notice,” said Radheesh V, Head-Projects, Ziqitza Healthcare.
The 108 project has 241 employees – 108 nurses, 108 drivers and 25 call centre staff. The project is operational in Thiruvanantha-puram and Alappuzha districts. It has 25 ambulances in Thiruvananthapram and 18 in Alappuzha. It functions under the Kerala Medical Services Corporation Limited (KMSCL).
The contract will expire in a matter of days but KMSCL has remained inactive. The corporation should have invited tenders at least 90 days in advance. “Normally, if new tenders are invited, the existing operator has to continue till the new arrangement comes into place,” Radheesh said. “But if we have to do it, the government will have to inform us,” he added.
KMSCL Managing Director Kamalahar said, “The issue is under the active consideration of the corporation,” he said. He did not respond when asked why steps were not taken to invite new tenders.
The United Nurses Association alleges that the move is part of a conspiracy to bring back Ziqitza through the backdoor. “We had been asking the government to take over the ambulance service. If the government was serious, it should have invited tenders at least 90 days in advance,” said UNA state president Siby Mukesh.
Ziqitza’s nurses and drivers had earlier gone on strike demanding higher wages. The company is also facing a vigilance probe into charges of corruption. Radheesh said that the charges were politically motivated. CM Oommen Chandy’s former economic adviser Shafi Mather and Union Minister Vayalar Ravi’s son are on Ziqitza’s director board.