The head of Greece’s ambulance service (EKAB) yesterday called for a judicial investigation into a report that pirate ambulances are preying on patients at state hospitals, charging hundreds of euros for a service that EKAB provides for free – albeit with questionable celerity. A ring of pirate ambulance owners working in cahoots with employees at the Athens Evangelismos, KAT, Erythros Stavros, Amalia Fleming, Ippocrateio and Geniko Kratiko hospitals charge up to 150 euros to take discharged patients – mostly elderly people or chronic invalids – home or to nursing facilities in Attica, according to Ta Nea daily. For Thessaloniki, the charge is 500 euros. EKAB head Christos Ressos admitted yesterday that the state ambulance service was not always prompt in taking patients home. «There can be delays,» he told Kathimerini. «But that does not give thieves using pirate ambulances the right to exploit patients, and a prosecutor should take action.» The head of the state hospital workers’ union, Stavros Koutsioubelis, said EKAB shortages can lead to patients waiting up to three days to be taken home.