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The fleet of vehicles serving the Southern Regional Health Authority (SRHA) has been boosted with the addition of four retrofitted ambulances, a passenger bus and a panel van.

Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. the Hon Christopher Tufton, officially handed over the keys to the six vehicles on Friday (January 13), during a ceremony held at the SRHA offices in Mandeville.

He lauded the SRHA team for the innovation in purchasing four 15-seater buses and converting these into ambulances using a design conceptualised by Fleet Manager, Robert Robinson, more than six years ago, which has also been adopted by the other health regions islandwide.

Purchasing the buses and customising them at a total cost of $62 million, saved the Government millions of dollars, which was used to purchase the two additional vehicles for $15 million.

Each ambulance is equipped with a stretcher, suction machines, heart monitor, oxygen, siren, inverter, emergency LED lights, handwash station and storage area, among other emergency equipment and accessories.

Dr. Tufton said that the SRHA team has been using their knowledge and experience to design ambulances that best meet their requirements and the needs of their patients, while also realising cost savings in the process.

“You are best placed to do that because you know how the people look, what their concerns are and what you need as a healthcare worker to respond to those persons in the back of that vehicle needing stabilisation or support to a hospital,” he noted.

Dr. Tufton further hailed the drivers for their record of safety on the roads, with only one major accident over the last five years.

He noted that the ambulances are timely, given the increasing number of accidents and trauma cases that call for their use.

“I am told that in the last year, SRHA recorded over 173,456 Accident and Emergency (A&E) visits. There were 2,666 motor-vehicle accidents, 4,816 patients visited trauma-related centres and 244 gunshot wounds were treated. This places demand on us as a country and directly on the healthcare infrastructure of the country,” the Health Minister said.

He said those numbers, when compared to the population of the region, leads one to conclude that “we were a country at war with ourselves, and we are not pursuing lifestyle practices that give us sufficient longevity and quality of life”.

The ambulances will be assigned to the Black River, Percy Junor, May Pen and Lionel Town hospitals.

The panel van will be customised into a regional maintenance workshop and the bus will be used to transport staff.

In 2021 and 2022, fleet drivers received defensive driving and fleet management training in preparation for the new Road Traffic Act.

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