Health abandons Madrid taxis and awards the transfer contract for doctors to a VTC company

The collaboration between taxi drivers and the Community of Madrid is over. After two years of proven solidarity – it was they who, in the worst of the pandemic, dedicated themselves to transporting Madrid residents to health centers and hospitals for free – the taxi sector received a jug of cold water on Tuesday. The Ministry of Health has ended the contract it had with the Madrid Taxi Professional Federation to transfer Primary Care doctors to provide service in residences and homes. From now on, this work will be the responsibility of the Auro Group, a VTC (transport vehicle with driver) company with more than 2,300 licences, which has been awarded a contract for this purpose for 1.5 million euros for next year .

“The Community once again betrays the trust of those who were on the front lines during the health crisis. It has been outlining its business model for a long time, clearly in favor of private companies”, denounces Julio Sanz, president of the Professional Federation of Madrid Taxi, the majority association of the sector in the capital.

The anger between taxi drivers and the Administration is not new. At the beginning of June, a queue of more than 400 taxis blocked Paseo de la Castellana to protest against the reform of the law that regulates VTCs and allows them to continue operating on urban routes, something that taxi drivers consider detrimental to their work. The new norm was approved the following day in the Assembly, thanks to the votes of the PP and Vox.

During the last year, the transfer service for doctors to homes and residences has been carried out through Pide Taxi, the application to which the federation belongs, and its station, Tele Taxi. However, from now on the concession will be carried out by three VTC companies – the Auro Group, Zater Transportation and Autos Lavapiés – owned by José Antonio Parrondo, who was president of the Madrid Taxi Association between 2007 and 2009.

The Ministry of Health defends this change of course due to the public nature of the tender, while recalling that the previous contract, which left the service in the hands of taxis, was an emergency contract, without free competition. “Taxi groups also appeared, among other bidders, which until now covered the downtown area. They have not been awarded due to price and because they do not cover the rural area, ”says a spokesman.

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What most outrages taxi drivers is the lack of gratitude after their sacrifices during the pandemic. Juan Manuel Guerrero was one of the many professionals who offered to continue working during the state of alarm without pay. This 60-year-old professional, with more than two decades of experience in the sector, fell ill with covid in March 2020, during the transport of a patient to the hospital in the retro of his vehicle. “As soon as I tested negative, I went back to work. It was necessary,” he states.

On Monday he received an email from Radioteléfono Taxi, the transfer reservation company of which he is a partner, informing him of the decision of the Ministry of Health to terminate the contract with the taxi drivers in favor of the Group’s VTC company Auro. “It is hard to believe that the Community has forgotten the hundreds of thousands of free transfers that Madrid taxi drivers make during the pandemic. And yet it is so. After so many sacrifices and the availability shown, they give us the kick. And in favor of the VTCs, which disappeared during the pandemic ”, he reproaches.

Once the initial urgency was over – a period during which Madrid taxi drivers rejected the Community’s proposal to reimburse gasoline for trips, considering it more important to invest that money in masks and hydroalcoholic gel – the Ministry signed an emergency contract with the guild. “With taxis, only about 50,000 euros were spent annually on the transfer of primary care doctors. The VTC budget is 1.5 million. It is a ridiculously high difference, it cannot not attract attention”, denounces the president of the Federation.

The taxi sector challenged the award in February before the Administrative Court of Public Procurement of Madrid, alleging “fraud in the specifications” carried out by the Auro Group and the “lack of requirements that affect the ability to participate in the bidding”. For example, the fact that many of the vehicles are diesel —something that does not allow them to circulate within the municipality of Madrid— or the lack of technical inspection, which they manage to avoid with white-background license plates, which need revision every four years. instead of annually, as required by law. However, the appeal has been dismissed.

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