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No written orders but ambulances from other states are being stopped at Telangana borders 

Telangana Police is stopping ambulances at borders to check for hospital bed reservations before allowing them entry. Local authorities say have received 'oral instructions'. 

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Hyderabad: Amid the growing influx of patients from neighbouring states of Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Karnataka, the Telangana Police is stopping ambulances at the borders to check for hospital bed reservation before allowing them entry into the state. 

Checkposts set up at all interstate borders in all the districts across the state have been instructed to do the same, according to a senior official of the Telangana Police who did not want to be named.

There are no written orders yet but oral instructions have been issued, the official added. 

The unwritten rule came to light Monday after a few ambulances were spotted lined up at the Suryapet district Kodad border checkpost with Andhra Pradesh. They had been stopped by the local police to only allow patients who managed to reserve a bed at hospitals in Telangana.

A relative of a patient stuck at the Kodad border, however, told ThePrint that the police were not allowing even those who had secured beds in Telangana hospitals. 

The relative, Narayana, said that an ambulance carrying his 34-year old Covid positive family member and coming from Andhra Pradesh’s Vijayawada was stopped at the Suryapet border for almost an hour and was denied entry late Sunday night.

This despite the 34-year-old having got reservation at a corporate hospital in Hyderabad.

“The police did not even ask us if we had bed slips and all,” Narayana alleged. “They just told us that the Telangana government is not allowing any outstation patients and they have received the orders so we need to go back. After requesting for an hour and telling them that it’s an extremely critical case, they allowed us.”

Suryapet Superintendent of Police (SP) R. Bhaskaran, though, told ThePrint that they were only stopping those without hospital beds. 

“Ambulances are being stopped. We’re not asking them to show slips and all but taking confirmation from the hospital if the patients have a bed reserved and then allowing them,” Bhaskaran told ThePrint.

There are no restrictions on inter-state travel in Telangana. The state has only imposed a night curfew, between 9 pm and 5 am.

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‘No written orders’

Suryapet District Collector Vinay Krishna said there have been no written orders sent to his office yet.

“Yes, I am aware the ambulances are being stopped but it is still unclear from where the orders have come. We have no written orders yet, I am looking into the issue,” he said Monday.

The Kodad border is one of the nine border checkposts that Telangana shares with Andhra Pradesh. The state has five checkposts at the border areas with Maharashtra and two in border areas with Karnataka. 

“It is not like we’re sending the ambulances away or other states cannot come here. We are just asking them for documentation,” Bhainsa DSP Khare Kiran Prabhakar told ThePrint. “In some cases, even if there is no documentation and the patient’s case is severe, we are sending them to the hospital.” 

Bhainsa is a small town on the Maharashtra-Telangana border and just a few kilometres away from Maharashtra’s Nanded district.

“For people in the Nanded area, the nearest urban area is Nagpur but that is pretty far; so they come to Telangana,” Prabhakar said. “For instance, Nizamabad district in Telangana has a lot of people coming from Nanded, they have relatives here… so these are like regular checks.”

The decision to check the ambulances was taken at an internal meeting a few days ago and then conveyed to district police, he added.

In a few instances, ambulances coming from Kadapa district were allegedly sent back from the Pullur border. 

ThePrint contacted Telangana Chief Secretary Somesh Kumar and Health Secretary Syed Ali Rizvi, through text and phone calls, but received no response until the publishing of this report.

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‘Not sending ambulances back’

According to the SP of Sangareddy, which is along the Karnataka-Telangana border, the ambulances are not being sent back, even if patients do not have prior hospital beds booked, but are being “briefed” about the shortage of beds in Telangana.

“We are checking for bed reservations and if they don’t have it we are briefing him about the situation in Telangana — ultimately, the final decision is theirs if they still want to go ahead,” Sangareddy SP Chandra Shekar Reddy said.

“We’ve been doing this for a week now. We usually check ambulances to see if there are genuine patients inside but now we are also explaining the situation.” 

The Covid burden on Telangana

Officially, however, Telangana has been maintaining that it has enough beds.

According to a statement from the Chief Minister’s Office, in a Covid review meeting Sunday, Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao was informed by health department officials that the state has 7,393 beds available in government hospitals along with 2,470 oxygen beds and 600 ventilators beds. 

But Telangana does see an influx of patients from other states, even in its districts. 

For instance, Adilabad and Nizamabad districts have a lot of patients from Maharashtra. Jayshankar-Bhupalpally, which borders Maharashtra’s Gadchiroli district, is also in a similar situation. Sangareddy’s hospitals have patients from Karnataka.

A significant number of such patients are admitted in Hyderabad. In fact, about 30 per cent of patients in the city’s private hospitals are from other states, particularly Maharashtra. 

Ousted Health Minister Eatala Rajender had in April blamed the spike in Hyderabad’s case to those travelling from Maharashtra. 

Telangana recorded 4,986 cases Sunday. The state had reported as high as 10,000 daily cases in April.

(Edited by Arun Prashanth)

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