A new headquarters has been found for the ambulance service. And Minister of Health John Boyce, who made that announcement on Friday, said while financial constraints may be preventing Government from sourcing new ambulances, some of the older vehicles will be overhauled and put back in operation.
He disclosed that the Emergency Ambulance Service (EAS) will be headquartered at the former R. R. Donnelley building in Wildey, St Michael, next door to the Edgar Cochrane Polyclinic. However, he did not give a timeline for the relocation of the department from the Ministry of Health building in Jemmots Lane, Bridgetown.
Boyce said the facility is in a central location and will also be used for training, among other activities for staff.
He made the disclosures as he contributed to a parliamentary debate on the divestment of a parcel of land in Arch Hall, St Thomas, to the National Housing Corporation for residential development.
The Minister said Government was aware of the challenges facing the EAS as a result of limitations with equipment and human resources, and gave the assurance that they would be addressed.
Boyce said part of government’s plan for the EAS is the introduction of a roving ambulance unit at the newly refurbished Arch Hall Fire Station in St Thomas, which is scheduled to be opened next Friday.
Exactly one year ago, two new ambulances were added to the fleet at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH), at a cost of $190,000 each, bringing the number of functional ambulances to seven and the total fleet to 11 at that time. Boyce said there are now eight operational ambulances.
“I want to make it very clear that I am not one of these persons who subscribe to the view that from the time a vehicle or piece of equipment is eight-years-old or ten-years-old it must be replaced by something new. I think we may not want to go to the extent of the Cuban situation where the renovation and rehabilitation in that country has been one which has seen . . . models of the 1940s still operating completely retrofitted,” he said.
However, Boyce said, Barbadians need to “get to grips with the fact that as a management team we have to put in place arrangements which will see not only the eight ambulances continue to operate effectively, but that the almost matching eight ambulances which are just a little older than many of these so-called new ambulances [are] properly repaired and available for use in a decentralized ambulance service”.
Boyce said he has already urged the management of the QEH that as part of its plans, the country “must have those ambulances that are not too old, repaired and being able and road worthy and effective, to help to augment the availability of vehicular fleet for this important service”.
“In this regard, too, I have made it clear that we need to take advantage of local entrepreneurs who want to take part in this exercise,” added Boyce.
He also acknowledged the need to boost personnel at the ambulance service but pointed out the limitations facing Government.
“I think it is now a fact that there are some 65 staff members directly associated with the operations of the Emergency Ambulance Service, and even as we contemplate this reality we recognize the need to expand those numbers and the only constraint to taking action in that direction immediately would be having the financial resources to support such a move,” Boyce explained.