22 April 2019
Screen grab from a video shows a paramedic taking "lai see" (inset) before providing ambulance service to a patient in Guangzhou last week. Credit: weibo,
Screen grab from a video shows a paramedic taking "lai see" (inset) before providing ambulance service to a patient in Guangzhou last week. Credit: weibo,

Guangzhou ambulance staff under fire for demanding cash ‘gifts’

An ambulance service in Guangzhou has come in for scathing criticism in online forums in China following revelations that a paramedic sought cash “gifts” before transporting a patient to a hospital.

According to mainland media, a paramedic who arrived to pick up an elderly man refused to take the patient to a hospital unless he and the ambulance driver were given lai see, or red envelopes, bearing cash.

Given an ultimatum, family members of the senior citizen, who was critically ill, had no option but to pay up, adding to their distress. 

As news surfaced of the extortion, Chinese netizens lashed out at the paramedic, describing his act as being akin to “looting a burning house”.

The story was first broken by Guangdong Radio and Television Station, which said the incident happened on Thursday last week.

According to the TV station, a doctor at a hospital had told the family of an old man, who suffered from high fever, to transfer the patient to another hospital that has more advanced equipment.

The doctor then helped in placing a call to an ambulance service to pick up the man.

In a clip aired by the station, a man who came with the ambulance and looked like a paramedic could be seen telling the family after moving the man onto the vehicle that a lai see gift of 500 yuan (US$73) is a must, or else the driver will not take them anywhere.

Claiming that he wants to ensure better hospital facilities for the patient as soon as possible, the paramedic gave the family two empty envelopes and asked them to put 200 yuan in one and 300 yuan in the other.

He said he will keep the envelope containing 200 yuan for himself, while the other one will go to the driver.

The family yielded to the request and paid the money as they were anxious and wanted to get their patient to the new hospital without delay.

The paramedic was wearing a white robe but did not wear any tag that could identify him.

Netizens who saw the clip slammed the paramedic for being cold blooded, saying that he seems to be more interested in making money than protecting a human life, Apple Daily reports.

Meanwhile, following the media revelations, the hospital which the old man was taken to has claimed that the ambulance was not its own, according to the man’s daughter.

Investigations later revealed that the ambulance was dispatched by a company that worked with hospitals to provide assistance for emergencies.

An unidentified person who claimed to be a manager at the ambulance firm told the media that its staff only took two 5-yuan bills for their service and that they have now apologized to the family.

However, the patient’s daughter has a different story to tell. She claimed that the ambulance company returned 200 yuan and asked her to not to discuss the matter with anyone.

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