Tue | Mar 21, 2023

Customisation saves $18m as SRHA expands ambulance fleet

Published:Tuesday | January 17, 2023 | 1:28 AMTamara Bailey/Gleaner Writer
 Robert Robinson, transportation manager at the Southern Regional Health Authority, explaining the features of ambulances handed over to the agency last Friday.
Robert Robinson, transportation manager at the Southern Regional Health Authority, explaining the features of ambulances handed over to the agency last Friday.

MANDEVILLE, Manchester:

All hospitals in the southern region now have at least two ambulances in their fleet, including a new customised unit, following last Friday’s handover of four ambulances and two service vehicles, valued at just over $77 million.

Southern Regional Health Authority (SRHA) Chairman Wayne Chen said that the four buses, which were acquired through a local dealer and then retrofitted as ambulances, cost just over $62 million.

This, he said, is $18 million less than it would have cost to buy and import four ambulances.

SRHA Technical Director Michael Bent said the new ambulances will be assigned to the Black River Hospital in St Elizabeth; the Percy Junor Hospital in Manchester; and the May Pen and Lionel Town hospitals in Clarendon. The panel van will be customised into a regional maintenance workshop and the minibus used to transport staff.

The Mandeville Regional Hospital received a donation of an additional ambulance in 2021.

“The idea to retrofit these vehicles started in 2016 because we were short on ambulances. It took us six to eight weeks to buy the buses and complete retrofitting and have them ready,” explained SRHA Transportation Manager Robert Robinson, adding that buying a new ambulance from a local dealer could take up to six months.

Robinson, who himself started out working at the agency as an ambulance driver, noted that in addition to significantly cutting the cost and turnaround time, there is an added benefit in controlling what goes in the ambulances.

“We have a wash hand[-washing] station – a sink powered by a pump. We have inverters and power outlets at the back of the ambulances. We can supply more oxygen, because normally, we would get the portable, but now we have standing oxygen tanks. We can carry at least two lying patients or at least one lying patient with three horizontal sit-ups,” he revealed.

With a number of buses similarly retrofitted as ambulances seven years ago still functional, Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton commended the team for its efforts to transform healthcare through innovation, a strong work ethic, and attention to detail.

“You are best placed to do that (customise) because you know how the people look and what the concerns are and what you need as a healthcare worker to respond to those concerns when in the back of that vehicle before you get to the hospital ... . From all standpoints, we are at a good place,” the minister said.

According to Tufton, the SRHA recorded 173,456 accident and emergency visits, responding to some 2,666 motor vehicle accidents last year.

Some 4,816 patients visited trauma-related centres and health facilities and 244 patients were treated for gunshots wounds.

Tufton called on citizens to be mindful of the strain which violence and road accidents put on the healthcare system.

“We will always respect and commit and work hard to be responsive, but we urge the population to recognise we can’t do it alone,” he said.