non mda ambulance 88.
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Health Ministry officials concede that they have difficulty supervising 130 private ambulance companies, some of which send out untrained drivers who offer little more service than taxis in transporting the sick and injured.
The issue was raised Wednesday in the Knesset Labor, Social Affairs and Health Committee with acting committee chairman Arye Eldad, who is a surgeon by profession, saying he has heard numerous complaints about private ambulances being operated like "a taxi with a bed inside."
He said the committee would hold an in-depth hearing on the matter in three months.
MK Issam Mahoul, meanwhile, said many of the drivers have only ordinary driver's licenses and lack certification as ambulance drivers. The vehicles are often unsafe, he added, noting that they also lack basic equipment such as sheets, pillows and blankets.
The committee learned from Health Ministry officials of fears that these ambulances might be used by criminal elements to transfer drugs and arms because ambulances frequently are not delayed for security checks.
Mahoul said he has been looking into the matter for the last two years and even brought a file, complete with video film, to the police.
They responded by checking a number ambulances within 24 hours and finding eight of them unsafe. Mahoul charged that the ministry enforces regulations regarding private ambulances only "selectively."
Dr. Michael Dor, a senior ministry official, said his office has been trying to fight unlicensed private ambulances for years. Recently, it insisted that all such drivers must have a special ambulance-driver license and undergo a Magen David Adom course.
The ministry has filed complaints to the police, especially in Haifa, from where most of the recent complaints came.
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