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Taxi monopolies penalise hospital patients

Update: October, 28/2017 - 06:00
Taxis wait for passengers in front of Bạch Mai Hospital. - Photo
Viet Nam News


HÀ NỘI - A man named Nam from northern Hà Nam Province called a taxi to take his father from Việt Nam-Germany Hospital in Hà Nội to the nearby Heart Hospital for medical tests. However, taxi drivers in front of the building refused the fare because of the short distance between the two hospitals.

“I wanted to call a taxi from another company, but there were none, apart from the Thủ Đô (Capital City) Taxi Company in the hospital lobby. I had to take my father to the hospital gate to catch a xe ôm (motorbike taxi),” he said.

According to Tiền Phong (Vanguard) newspaper, there is a taxi pick-up and drop-off point next to the Việt Nam-Germany Hospital gate. Only taxis from Thủ Đô Company are allowed to park there. Taxis from other companies can only drop off passengers and then leave.

Passengers are only accepted if the distance is more than five kilometres. Although taxis have speedometers and fixed prices, drivers still ask passengers to negotiate prices. Sometimes, those who want to go only one kilometer have to pay  five to seven kilometres because they have no other choices.

Taxi monopolies can also be observed at big hospital in the capital city, including the Hospital of Medical University, National Hospital of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Thanh Nhàn Hospital, Military 108 Hospital, Military 103 Hospital and the National Paediatric Hospital.

At Military 103 Hospital, there is a parking area for about 10 vehicles from only one taxi company. Cars from other companies are banned at the gate by security, claiming that too many cars might cause traffic congestion in rush hours.

Many patients are dropped off at the hospital gate and then have to be taken inside by relatives.

The chaos is visible at the hospital gate where taxis line up in a long row to wait for passengers. Giải Phóng Street in front of Bạch Mai Hospital, Phủ Doãn Street in front of Việt Nam-Germany Hospital, Tôn Thất Tùng Street of Medical University Hospital are always congested due to the large volume of taxis.

Thành Lợi and ABC taxi companies even use staff which use walkie-talkies to direct taxis in front of the Medical University Hospital.

Police officers patrol the hospital areas, but ignore taxis parked on the street. On Giải Phóng Street, police officers only fine private cars.

Bùi Danh Liên, chairman of the Hà Nội Transport Association, said that lobbies and areas in front of hospitals were all State assets so all healthcare and transport services must be transparent and competitive. In particular, public benefit was the top priority.

“Most people use taxis or personal cars to take patients to hospitals. If the hospital has a private area for taxis or ambulances, it must publicise the information and launch an auction to select at least two to three transport operators to give people a choice,” he said.

Pay fees for slots

To obtain a slot at the hospital, drivers said that they must pay many fees for the company. Drivers refuse passengers going one or two kilometers and only accept fees of more than VNĐ40,000 (US$1.7).

Some drivers told Tiền Phong newspaper that they must give money to authorised forces who manage traffic in front of hospitals so that taxi violations are ignored.

According to Tiền Phong report, Medical University Hospital signed a contract with the ABC taxi company. Since January 1, 2017, the hospital allows taxis of ABC company to park round the clock inside the hospital to pick up passengers. The contract also states that ABC company has a monopoly at the hospital.

“This means that Medical University Hospital must not sign contracts or cooperate with any other taxi companies in any form,” it says.

Deputy director of Medical University Hospital, Nguyễn Thanh Bình, confirmed with Tiền Phong the existence of the contract.

There is a parking area for the ABC taxi company inside the hospital. Cars of other companies are allowed to enter the hospital to drop off passengers only, he said, adding that the company must pay VNĐ40 million ($1,700) a month to the hospital for the contract.

He said that due to small space at the hospital, the hospital signed contract with only one company to avoid congestion.

Bình confirmed that passengers were refused to be taken on short trips. The hospital claims it is now reviewing the situation and will end the contracts with the company if drivers refuse to serve passengers properly.

Việt Nam-Germany Hospital, National Paediatric Hospital and National Hospital of Obstetrics and Gynaecology also confirmed that they signed contracts to allow only one taxi company to operate at the hospital.

At a press meet organised by the Bạch Mai Hospital yesterday, it was announced that two taxi operators, Mai Linh and Việt Thanh, are offering services at the front and rear gates of the hospital. They have committed to provide quality services, to not park in front of the gate, and to publicise their fares.

The two operators donate VNĐ12 million ($522) each every month to the hospital’s patients assistance fund and offer electric car services to transport patients from the hospital to the taxi parking for VNĐ10,000 to 15,000 each trip.

The hospital has not received any report about overcharing taxis. If any violations are found, the hospital will end its contract with these taxi companies; and the hospital does not force people to use the service of any taxi company. People are free to choose , said Nguyễn Ngọc Hiền, the hospital’s deputy director said.

A representative of Mai Linh taxi company said they always maintained their service quality. All activities of the company are transparent in order to provide good service to patients. The company will take responsibility and collaborate with the Bạch Mai Hospital in takling any problem that arises, the representative said.

Ministry raises voice

Deputy Health Minister Nguyễn Viết Tiến said that the health ministry did not have any plan to prioritise any taxi company at hospitals. He said the monopoly was determined by hospitals. 

After Tiền Phong reported on the monopolies, Chief Inspector of Hà Nội’s Transport Department, Trần Đăng Hải, ordered an inspection and banned taxis from parking and picking up passengers at the hospital gates.

Any company which violates the regulation and overcharges passengers will be invited to have a meeting with local authorities, he said.

Lương Ngọc Khuê, Director General of Medical Examination and Treatment Department, said: “Transport service for patients must prioritise serving the public. Monopolies are against the regulations set for public hospitals.”

He has ordered directors of Bạch Mai Hospital, Việt Nam-Germany Hospital, National Paedicatric Hospital, Medical University Hospital, Hà Nội Heart Disease Hospital and Thanh Nhàn Hospital to clarify media reports about taxi service monopoly and overcharging no later than November 02. - VNS






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