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The Jamaica Social Investment Fund on August 14 handed over two ambulances, valued at $6.2 million, to the Ministry of Health to be utilised by the North East Regional Health Authority.

Purchase of the ambulances was made possible through the Government of Jamaica, under the European Union-funded Tropical Storm Gustav Emergency Recovery Project.

The ambulances will assist in emergency response at the Alexandria Health Centre and the St. Ann’s Bay Hospital.

In his remarks, Minister of Health, Hon. Dr. Fenton Ferguson, said the ambulances were “very well needed” by the North East Regional Health Authority.

“Often times we underestimate the critical importance of having ambulances or even  our multi-purpose transfer units, whether based at hospitals or at health centres. But, many times lives have been lost because of the failure to respond to a patient in distress,” Dr. Ferguson said.

He added that the ambulances will make a big difference in the work of the North East Regional Health Authority, in how they move patients, especially at the primary care level.

“In the past and even now, we have had to pay significant sums to private ambulance service. It is our view that the ambulance service  is one area that if properly managed and if we have the right persons in the right place, we can do a good job to carry out our critical mandate,” Dr. Fergusons said.   

For her part, Managing Director, Jamaica Social Investment Fund, Mrs. Scarlette Gillings, noted that this was the first time that JSIF had embarked on the purchase of such equipment.

"We realised it was extremely vital, especially to help facilities, such as the maternity service at the health facilities. As we hand over the keys to the Ministry, we know that these vehicles will help to preserve lives, not only of persons using the Alexandria Health Centre, but persons needing critical care in other parts of the parish, such as at the St. Ann’s Bay Hospital,” Mrs. Gillings said.

For her part, Head of the Economic and Social Development Division of the European Union (EU), Helen Jenkinson, said she is  “very pleased” that the Ministry  has received the ambulances.