A coronavirus patient was allegedly sexually assaulted by an ambulance driver in Pathanamthitta district in central Kerala late on Saturday night. Police said the ambulance driver was arrested within hours of the crime.
Police said two women from a family had tested Covid-19 positive on Saturday evening. As per the standard Covid-19 standard operating procedures (SOP) in Kerala, patients are allowed to be ferried to a hospital only by an ambulance.
The ambulance came around midnight and a patient was admitted to a local, dedicated Covid-19 hospital. Authorities at the facility advised the driver to take the other patient to another hospital. The ambulance driver stopped the ambulance at a desolate place and raped the 22-year-old patient inside the vehicle. She was also threatened with dire consequences if she revealed her ordeal to anyone. She told doctors about the incident upon being admitted to the hospital.
Later, a medical examination confirmed the sexual assault. The accused (29) was involved in several criminal cases, including a murder attempt.
Health officials said he was recruited on a temporary basis and that they were investigating how he got the job.
Health authorities have given strict instructions that every ambulance should have more at least two employees and special care should be taken if occupants are only women patients. They also sought the help of Kerala Police to verify antecedents of all drivers.
The authorities at the state ministry for health and family welfare said it would order a probe into the incident.
“It is a shocking incident. The ministry has taken measures to avoid such incidents. More health workers will be deployed in ambulances from now on,” said Veena George, who represents Arnamula constituency in Kerala legislative assembly and is a leader of the ruling Communist Party of India (Marxist).
KG Simon, superintendent of police (SP), Pathanamthitta, said: “It appears to be a well-planned crime. The driver took a circuitous route to carry out the crime. We have collected all the evidence. We will fast track the trial to hand out stringent punishment to the accused.”
State minister for health and family welfare K K Shailaja called the incident “inhuman” and said “it should not have been happened”.