They are an embarrassment, says former Minister of Health Dr Jerome
Walcott –– these 13
three-wheeled ambulances just recently gifted to the Barbados Government
by the United Arab Emirates. Motorbikes that they are, with attached cramped
compartment, these donations we cannot help but admit are a step down
–– far down.
The tiny mobile bay will carry one patient on a stretcher and two medical
attendants at most; and God forbid if the pregnant patient gives birth on
the way to hospital –– a fear drivers of these auto-rickshaws in the city of
Bangalore, India, agonize in every day, as under such circumstances the mother
and newborn would be exposed to high risk of multiple infections.
Further, Senator Dr Walcott does not see these three-wheeler rickshaws
being swiftly and successfully manoeuvred as ambulances carrying any of our
critically sick or injured on the roads of Barbados, especially up streets like the
precipitous and winding Rendezvous Hill.
Nor do we see them being safely navigated on roadways like the expansive
and tricky Darcy Scott Roundabout in Warrens, St Michael.
But what does Minister of Health John Boyce have to say about all this?
Mr Boyce has “already commented on the matter”, he has been reported as
saying, and has “nothing further to add”. A pity! No one knows what he has
said before –– barring perhaps his Permanent Secretary Tennyson Springer
who has already had the vehicles cleared, and is now at the stage of deciding
how they will be allocated and distributed.
And, “training of officers” to operate these motorcycles cum trailers,
according to the permanent secretary, will depend on who was going to be
using them and what for. We imagine it would take a committee to help Mr
Springer resolve this who, to whom, how and where; and, God knows, we
might even require a task force to establish subsequent efficacy.
We appreciate Mr Boyce’s dilemma, though, given his experience in
matters of engineering and Transport and Works, which the Minister of
Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade cannot exactly boast of and would therefore
put her at a disadvantage in discerning the impracticality and challenges of such
a gift as the United Arab Emirates would put in her hands.
We also empathize with Senator Maxine McClean. After all, schooled in
Christian principles and good social graces, the Minister of Foreign Affairs
would not be unmindful of the ethic that receiving gifts you would rather not
have, or are of little use to you, or which you hate ought still to be met with
gratitude ––for “it’s the thought that counts”.
No doubt about it, the gift of 13 motorbike ambulances were graciously
received and the government of the United Arab Emirates dutifully thanked.
After all, the UAE gave of what it possesses, having no clue of the higher
standard of our ambulance services –– which the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
did not have the gumption to tell the emirs.
Do we have the shrewdness to deal with this awkward situation? For
starters, we could regift the ambulance tricycles. There is no harm done in
giving to others for their use a gift for which we really have none.
We might shore up the equal 13 that Antigua received from the United
Arab Emirates too, or the ten that Grenada got and seem happy to work with.
Or we could hand over all of ours to St Vincent. As we are advised, the
motorbike ambulances are ideal for marshy ground and places struck by
mudslides –– the present condition our flood-hit neighbour now suffers.
Not surprisingly, most of the Barbadian workers assembling the ambulances
are puzzled by the expected effectiveness of these three-wheeled vehicles in
On top of that, drivers, to stay within the law, will need to show
proficiency in navigating the 250 cc engine rickshaws and obtain the pursuant
Clearly, the contraptions cannot be used for everyday emergencies. They
may serve limitedly the purpose of taking outpatients home from the Queen
Elizabeth Hospital or the polyclinic; or of accompanying athletes on marathon
runs or walks, or being stationed at games of cricket or football . . . .
But they hardly fit into our environment, space and culture –– not so easily
as in the likes of India, Nepal and Uganda; not remotely into the Barbadian
imageries of health care, emergency and hospital attendance.
It would raise a hearty laugh too if we did not give consideration to the
drivers of these things –– men, in whose hands the safety and lives of patients
and attendants lie; men, exposed to the elements of nature; men simply
This cannot ever meet the standards of ambulance care that we have come