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The complement of ambulances in the public health system is being boosted by the provision of US$884,323 by the National Health Fund (NHF), to purchase 17 additional units.

A contract for the allocation was signed by Health Minister, Hon. Dr. Fenton Ferguson, NHF executives, and representatives of Toyota Jamaica Limited, during a brief ceremony on Wednesday, March 20, at the NHF’s head office in New Kingston.

Cabinet approved the awarding of the contract to Toyota Jamaica, which is slated to deliver the units by September. These will be deployed across the four health authority regions, and to the Ministry.

Speaking at the signing, Dr. Ferguson said the procurement of the 17 ambulances will bring to 55, the number of units acquired since he assumed the health portfolio in January 2012.

He said the additional units are a welcome intervention and will strengthen the capacity of the Ministry of Health and the Regional Health Authorities to provide timely and efficient services to patients, especially for emergency care.

The new units will complement the six multi-patient transfer units, which the Ministry purchased a year ago and reduce the need to contract private services.

“With the availability of the multi-patient transfer units, the ambulances should not be tied up with transporting persons for diagnostic testing and will, therefore, be used for emergencies and transfer of patients, who need medical care while being transported. This should significantly alleviate the pressure that was placed on the previous fleet of ambulances and reduce the need to procure private ambulance services, thus saving the government millions of dollars,” the Minister said.

Chief Executive Officer of the NHF, Everton Anderson, said the procurements are being facilitated through the Fund’s Institutional Benefits Programme.

He said that this is the second time in the 10-year history of the NHF that a major grant is being provided for acquisition of ambulances, the first time being in 2007, when 40 ambulances were purchased.

“This…is a major role of the NHF – to provide support to the health system in Jamaica, with a view to improving the efficiency and effectiveness of health care and the overall health of the Jamaican population,” Mr. Anderson stated.

In his remarks, NHF Chairman, Sterling Soares, noted that since its establishment, the agency has delivered on its mission to provide financing for national health care.

He said the fund will be focused on providing the support needed to the public health sector to protect the health gains of the past and meet the current challenges.

By Douglas McIntosh, JIS Reporter