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New regulation to stop Brussels ambulance 'cowboys'
Private ambulances in Brussels will be subject to new regulation in an attempt to "clean up" the medical transport sector and put a stop to "cowboys".
New legislation due to be examined by the Brussels regional parliament will set out the qualifications needed for ambulance drivers and their support staff, and the required equipment on-board. Transparent pricing will also be required, with administrative or criminal sanctions for non-compliance.
Private ambulances in Belgium provide non-urgent transport - for example, taking an elderly resident of a care home for a routine hospital check-up. RTBF reports that, under the current laws, "if you fancied become an ambulance driver today, you wouldn't need any training or specific equipment, just a car with a big boot".
One ambulance driver who has worked for 25 years in the sector told the broadcaster: "Regulation is sorely lacking. Anything goes at the moment. Everyone is doing as they please.
"I've seen some of the strangest vehicles transformed into ambulances. I remember seeing a Toyota Previa (mini-van) with a few seats removed to make room for a stretcher. That was an ambulance."
If passed, the new legal framework should come into effect later this year, followed by a transition period for ambulance firms to comply.
Audgerhem mayor Didier Gosuin, who is responsible for healthcare issues in Brussels' bilingual Common Community Commission, said: "It's clear that there are cowboys out there, hence the need to solve this problem.
"We have to prevent absolutely anyone from setting up as an ambulance driver. This is a very important job, transporting people who are less mobile with professionalism and transparency."