Government through the Ministry of Health has explained the delay in rolling out the newly acquired boat ambulances that are set to offer emergency services.
A total of 15 boat ambulances were procured by government and currently, seven of them have already arrived in the country.
Recently, parliament and members from island communities asked government to explain the whereabouts of the equipment that have since their purchase never reached the various districts.
On Monday, MPs on the health committee of parliament went on a fact finding mission about the boat ambulances at the UPDF Marine base in Entebbe.
Speaking to the legislators, Dr. John Waniaye, the Commissioner for emergency medical services in the Ministry of Health allayed any fears about the water ambulances.
Waniaye however told the legislators that there was a delay in dispatching the ambulances because they had to first get tested for worthiness on water.
“Over the weekend, the boats underwent lake worthiness tests by the Ministry of Works and they consequently got certificates,”Waniaye said.
He explained that in a bid to operate the boat ambulances well, government had to form a joint taskforce including the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Works, Internal Affairs, Ministry of Defence and district leaderships.
“The previous boats had equipment dismantled whereas others were stolen. As the ministry, we don’t have specialized personnel and therefore had to take advantage of the already established systems like the marine units of the UPDF and Police. We will also take advantage of these security agencies to manage the boat ambulances,” he said.
He noted that because of the need to sign a memorandum of understanding between all the respective ministries, there a delay but noted that soon, the boat ambulances will be dispatched.
“We shall have a look at docking sites and agree with district managements before dispatching them. Operational requirements are all ready and what is remaining is the engagement with the districts.
According to Maria Nkalubo, the principal operations officer in the department of emergency medical services in the Health Ministry said the boat ambulances will soon be deployed on Lakes victoria, Albert, Bunyonyi and Bisina as well as River Nile.
For each of these water bodies, we have identified districts to be prioritized and these will in the first phase receive the water ambulances,” Nkalubo said.
She mentioned Kalangala, Buvuma, Amolatar, Jinja, Mayuge, Mukono, Namayingo, Serere, Kumi, Buliisa, Kikuube, Moyo, Kabale and Nakasongola as the districts to receive boats in the first phase.
“There will also be a boat for the National Medical Stores to help transport drugs in times of emergency to island areas. This is just the first phase and later we shall see where to go next.”
According to the Ministry of Health officials, this is part of the bigger plan for government to set up an emergency medical system in the country.
“Emergency services are those given to people to save life but world over are still under development. In order to achieve this, a lot needs to be done including quick response,”Dr. John Waniaye.
He mentioned that the newly acquired boat ambulances are of type B and C with basic equipment to save life and advanced equipment respectively.
“We plan that all major water bodies in the country are covered. There is however need to manage the boats well if we are to get the best out of them.”
Speaking about the ambulances, Brig Michael Nyalwa, the commander for the UPDF Marine brigade explained that whereas government was being overcharged to keep the boat ambulances at Munyonyo, they were requested by the health ministry to keep them at Entebbe Marine base until they are dispatched.
“We were asked to receive them because of being overcharged at Munyonyo. The ministry requested us to keep them until they are dispatched,” Brig Nyalwa said.
“We have a ship yard in Magamaga (in Jinja district) but slowly by slowly we are building capacity to be doing everything here. The critical thing is that the boats are here and ready to be used to ferry patients.”
The MPs on the health committee of parliament applauded government for heeding to the call and procure the boat ambulances to help island communities.
“I want to thank ministry for fulfilling the presidential pledge. The genesis of these ambulances was pregnant mothers who lost their lives while being taken to hospital,” said Kyamuswa County MP Moses Kabuusu.
He however implored the committee to also make a fact-finding visit to the island communities to acquaint themselves more with what happens.
The committee chairperson, Dr.Charles Ayume said having acquainted themselves with knowledge about the boat ambulances, they will now report back to parliament with a detailed report about the vessels.