MANDEVILLE, Manchester — For the past six years the Southern Regional Health Authority (SRHA) has been saving millions by retrofitting passenger buses into ambulances, resulting in other regions adopting the concept.
Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton last Friday applauded the idea, which was conceptualised by SRHA’s transport manager, Robert Robinson.
“With the use of local innovation we also understand context so we go for cost-effectiveness — what is most applicable given our circumstances,” Tufton told his audience at a handover ceremony for six vehicles — four retrofitted ambulances, a panel van and a staff bus — last Friday at SRHA’s Mandeville office.
Tufton credited the region for saving millions through the initiative.
“Your component of value-added has captured the savings. It costs money to design; engineers, architects have to put these things together, but you have done it and so that component of the cost is taken out,” he said.
“When I hear the statistics that every hospital in the southern region now has that kind of mobility [ambulances] it is also a good achievement and it shows the progress that we are making,” he added.
The Southern Region, which comprises Clarendon, Manchester and St Elizabeth, has five hospitals.
SRHA Chairman Wayne Chen commended the region’s staff.
“The four ambulances represent much of what is the best in us — it represents Jamaican innovation, it represents us incorporating experience into design and functionality, it represents us listening to the people who are best equipped and use the finished product. I want to salute the drivers and our maintenance [workers],” he said.
“Oftentimes in our country we have lost out because we practise top-down management, where you only hear from Kingston that this must be done or we hear from the big guy upstairs that this must happen… But we don’t listen often enough to the persons who are ultimately going to benefit and to use it [resources],” added Chen.
Chen said the retrofitted ambulances saved the Government $18 million.
“If we had imported them it would have taken months on months to get here because of the import and the special bill — it would have cost us about $80 million. We got four ambulances for $62 million, a saving of $18 million to the taxpayers of this country,” he said.
He added that the ambulances were modified to have more oxygen supply.
“We asked for them to have an increased oxygen supply because we know it is a long trip from Mandeville or from Black River to Kingston — you don’t want to run out of oxygen on the road. This is not a knock on the imported ambulances but they are not working under the same conditions we are,” said Chen.
Robinson said a minibus can be retrofitted into an ambulance faster than ordering an equipped ambulance.
“We bought them as minibuses, took out the seats and retrofitted them into ambulances. We have been doing this from 2016; it has saved the region and the Government millions and it has cut down on the waiting time in the procurement of ambulances. Whereas it would have taken six months to purchase an ambulance, these [retrofits] were completed within six to eight weeks,” he said.
“Six years ago we were short on ambulances. We didn’t have enough units to cover the amount of work we had to do; we were sometimes not able to assist the patients in transporting them from facilities or to do their test as quickly as we should have. We thought about the idea and this is what we came up with,” he added.