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Tackling ambulance scarcity must not be piece meal

botchway August 3, 2018


The National Ambulance Service (NAS) has come about as a national effort to effectively respond to disasters following the 2001 stadium disaster.

Since 2004, when the NAS commenced, a total 130 ambulance stations have been established.

Coming with the ambulance stations are trained technicians who help live the vision and mission of the NAS to provide the most comprehensive pre-hospital and emergency care in the most efficient manner to Ghanaians.

Another feature of the NAS is to respond to emergency with a high degree of capability and efficiency.

It is on record that the government procured 161 ambulances in 2016 for the Health Ministry and planned securing a further 200 for the heath sector.

Last year, the Deputy Minister of Health, Mrs. Tina Naa Ayele Gifty Mensah, gave the hint that the government was negotiating with a German ambulance manufacturing firm in a bid to procure new ambulances to augment the fleet of the NAS.

As an interim measure to improve upon services by the NAS, the Minister indicated that repairable broken-down ambulances were to be put back on the road to save lives.

In spite of these efforts, the NAS is still faced with the challenge of inadequate ambulances.

At the last count, the NAS had less than 60 ambulances operating throughout the country.

This is woefully inadequate and defeats the vision and mission to provide proper pre-hospital management of casualties.

It is unfortunate that we, as a nation, have had to contend with the rather unfortunate situation where eminent personalities and individuals have not had access to ambulance services because they were simply not available.

The late former President John Evans Fiifi Atta Mills, the late former Vice President Paa Kwesi Bekoe Amissah-Arthur, the late Paul Victor Obeng, and lately casualties of the Ashaiman accident, suffered from the unavailability of ambulances at the time they were in anguish.

Ghana, with a population of almost 30 million, has 155 ambulances, 100 of which are broken down, with only 55 functioning and serving all 10 regions. As it is, one ambulance is shared by over 520,000 people, exposing Ghanaians to a major health crisis.

For instance, the Bawku Hospital, which serves as a referral centre for the Garu, Pusiga, Binduri and Bawku West districts, has no ambulance, resulting in the loss of lives due to lack of pre-hospital service.

It is presumed that since the NAS is a government initiative, logistics are to be provided by the government. The question is what happened to the 200 ambulances then Health Minister Segbefia promised the government was going to secure in 2016. What has become of the negotiations with the German firm, as Auntie Tina announced last year?

We think equipping the NAS by sheer lip service, or on a piece meal basis, is not the best way to tackle the ambulance scarcity scare.

The Chronicle would, therefore, want the government to put some premium on resourcing the NAS and health facilities to function efficiently. We want to see the 275 new ambulances from the Special Development Initiative Ministry, as announced by the Ministry of Health, given a priority.

Come to think of it, the Accident and Emergency Unit of the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital, established in 2008, has a helipad, yet no ambulance (helicopter) is stationed there almost ten years since it became operational.

The paper takes this opportunity to recommend for the consideration of all Metropolitan, Municipal and District assemblies that they procure at least an ambulance each for health facility (public and private) in their respective areas from their Common Fund to improve health delivery.

“The Operation Save a Soul” project, which was launched by the government to solicit donor support from corporate bodies locally in the procurement of ambulances for our health facilities, should be seen to work.

If the government cannot provide these ambulances, it is not worth the votes of the electorate at elections.

The time to act is now!

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