Ashgabat's Ambulance Service Centre is made up of 12 units which employ hundreds of medical doctors, paramedics, junior medical staff and drivers. Each month a fee of 20 manats ($7) is collected from the ambulance service staff to purchase young plants.
Since Niyazov's time, "the green belt" has been set up around Ashgabat. However, since then this initiative has been accomplished at the expense of government agency employees. They regularly make financial contributions and are urged to work on the plots of land allocated to each organization.
Ambulance service personnel, including doctors, head to "their" plot of land on a regular basis, at least once a month on their days off. They plant trees, plough the land, dig ditches and water plants. The vehicles which transport them to their plot of land and back, as well as water trucks, are also paid for by healthcare practitioners.
"But this is not all – an ambulance nurse complains. – Every month we are requested to make contributions of 10 manats ($3,5) to buy cotton wool, roller bandages, iodine, spirit, gloves and masks. We have to purchase medical gowns ourselves".
It is now known that wheelchairs for the disabled are also repaired at the expense of healthcare practitioners.
The staff is used not only as "landscape designers" but everywhere where free labour is needed. Last summer ambulance service teams were even involved during the fire-fighting and rescue operations after a fire broke out at the customs office of Badjagiran on the outskirts of Ashgabat.
The Healthcare Ministry receives new ambulance vehicles fully equipped with intensive care equipment and first aid kit. However, the management of the Emergency Care Centre dismantles this equipment to sell to their ambulance service teams.
Another distinct feature of Turkmen healthcare practitioners is that the medial service to patients is restricted by unspoken rules. For instance, a call from a patient over 70 is not recorded or can be postponed as the last one. Calls to the ambulance service for aid to critically ill patients, particularly cancer patients, are not recorded so that a fatality in the ambulance or an out-patient clinic would not "damage" the statistics.
It can be said that the executives of the Healthcare Ministry urge their staff to perform direct responsibilities in a formalized manner – to rescue people, but when performing tasks not related to healthcare to be diligent and responsible – in particular in the planting of trees.