It is an embarrassment.
That is the view of former Minister of Health Jerome Walcott on the 13 three-wheeled ambulances that were recently donated to the Barbados Government by the United Arab Emirates. “I do not see them being used as ambulances in Barbados. I don’t know how they are going to manoeuvre on the roads of Barbados, especially a hill like Rendezvous Hill,” Walcott said.
He also added that he was very curious to see how they were going to be deployed. “I don’t think they [Government] knew what they were going to do with them when they were gifted. Just because other countries are taking them does not mean we have to take them too,” he said.
Workers at the Technical Management Service, where the ambulances are being assembled, said they were also wondering how effective the three-wheeled vehicles would be in Barbados. The vehicle is narrow in width, short in length and resembles that of a tricycle, with a container on the back. They have the capacity to carry one operator in the front and an attendant and patient on a stretcher in the back.
One ambulance worker who requested anonymity said they were thankful to have received the donation, but he was not sure what type of vehicle to call it and said that the future drivers would need to obtain a special licence to drive them.
“They cannot be used for everyday emergencies, but I guess they have a place here. I personally believe they can only begoing to clinics,” he said.
Another worker, who was eager to show the unique vehicle added that “it rides just like a motorcycle and I know that can only go for short distances and cannot handle all the corners in Barbados”.
A mechanic who helped assemble one of the vehicles and also requested anonymity added that the vehicles were fairly simple to set up, but he did not believe they had a place here. An emergency medical technician (EMT) from the Ambulance Service, who declined to give his name, said he had a chance to look at the vehicles and was not impressed, but rather amused.
“They are funny. They can be useful, yes, but not for what we do here in Barbados. They are certain standards that need to be met for it to be considered an ambulance, and those things do not meet that standard,” he said.
He further mentioned: “Those vehicles are not built for the roads in Barbados and you certainly cannot pick up patients in them. Maybe they can be used to transport medication or something like that.” He also mentioned that the safety of the EMTs needed to be taken into consideration when using the ambulances. When contacted, Minister of Health John Boyce said he had already commented on the matter and had nothing further to add.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Tennyson Springer, said the ministry had already cleared the vehicles and they were now deciding on how they were going to be distributed.
He added that “training of officers to operate the vehicles depends on who is going to be using them and what they are going to be used for”.