About 40 of the 130 ambulances procured for the National Ambulance Service ( NAS) in 2010, have been grounded at its workshop.
Although the vehicles have outlived their usefulness, the service is compelled to repair them for use but that too is constrained by lack of funds.
The remaining 90 ambulances are woefully inadequate for effective health care delivery in the country.
The Chief Executive Officer of the NAS, Professor Ahmed Nuhu Zakariah, said some of the ambulances were parked at the workshop because they had exceeded their lifespan while others have developed major faults.
“The lifespan, of every emergency vehicle is normally five years, which means that the NAS needs to get a new fleet of vehicles, but we are compelled to use the old ones since we don’t have that luxury,” he said.
“The reality is that if the major faults on emergency vehicles are not fixed before use again, it may be causing more harm than good; that is why it’s better to book it out of commission rather than use it in a bad state,” he said.
Prof. Zakariah stressed the need for more ambulances to help eliminate the “taxi ambulance” system, by which taxis conveyed patients in critical situations to hospital.
He said the service was in the process of procuring spare parts outside the country to repair those ambulances with major faults.
Prof. Zakariah, however, observed that the NAS had fared well amidst its challenges over the previous years, saying the number of patients the service attended to had increased from 250 patients, five years ago, to over 15,000 patients currently.
He stated that the service had improved tremendously as far as care was concerned, since the public was getting more aware of the service assistance.
He said that as the services seeks to expand its operations this year, it aspires to get more vehicles and upgrade the skills of the Emergency Medical Technicians to acquire enough skills to meet international standards.
Prof. Zakariah advised the public to rely on emergency care as their first point of call before they call on commercial vehicles.
“This is because you might not get the necessary help from the commercial vehicles, if you need oxygen for example, the taxi cannot assist , but the Emergency Medical Technicians in the ambulances are trained to provide care to patients on the scene, and in transit and are able to transport patients to the hospitals in good conditions,” he said .
The National Ambulance Service (NAS), began in 2004 with seven ambulance stations under the auspices of the Ministry of Health (MoH) and the Ministry of Interior to provide efficient and timely pre-hospital emergency medical care to the sick and the injured and transport them to health facilities for clinical care.
It started with less than 60 staff, but currently its stations have increased to about 130 with about 1,700 staff.
The service, according to the CEO, would have grown and expanded better had it not been some financial challenges.
The Minister of Health, Mr. Alexander Segbefia, said that the European Union is providing 31.25 million Euros to Ghana under the Millennium Development Goal MDG Acceleration Framework (MAF) to help resource implementing agencies including the NAS of the MoH.
By Linda Naa Deide Aryeetey