By Jeff Trotman
The Region Ten administration yesterday suspended its monthly statutory meeting to protest the failure of the Ministry of Health to provide an ambulance for the region.
“We want to ensure that the people of Region Ten feel safe and secure that in times of need there is an ambulance in their community,” Regional Chairman Sharma Solomon said during a press conference that was called immediately following the suspension
of the statutory meeting. He added that the region intends to take further action if the matter is not resolved within a week.
Stressing that the Linden Hospital Complex has been without an ambulance for over two months, Solomon said the RDC empathises with the Board of the Linden Hospital Complex’s concern at the situation.
A motion to suspend the Regional Democratic Council (RDC) meeting, scheduled to take place yesterday, was tabled by Councillor Leslie Gonsalves and supported by Councillors Charles Sampson and Audwin Rutherford and Solomon explained that only one of the 12 councillors present voted against it. The motion was amended to cover the entire Region Ten, particularly Kwakwani, which is currently without an ambulance that is needed to cover Ituni and Aroaima.
Stressing that Linden and the region have been without a functioning ambulance for over two months, Solomon said that Linden has a population of 30,000 people and the wider region has a population of 50,000. “It is of utter disgrace that the people are at the mercy of private transportation and in some cases when they can’t afford it, no transportation, when they need urgent medical attention,” he said.
He added that as Chairman of Region Ten, he fully supported the RDC’s position because since June 6, immediately after the RDC’s last statutory meeting, he telephoned the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health, Leslie Cadogan, advising him that he had been instructed by the RDC to inform the authorities of the gravity of the situation as the Linden Hospital Complex did not have a functioning ambulance.
According to Solomon, the response was that nothing could be done at the moment but efforts would be made to rectify the situation. Solomon further stated that even though further contact was made with the ministry, nothing has been done to alleviate the situation.
He said the seriousness of not having an ambulance in Linden was amplified on the day of the recent vehicular accident at Bosai’s East Montgomery Mine, in which three men lost their lives “and the injured and the deceased were unable to be properly transported and alternative means of transport had to be sought, which we believe caused further danger and threat to the lives of those, who were injured”.
Regional Vice Chairman Byron Lewis and councillors Stanley Collins, Leslie Gonsalves, Audwin Rutherford and Maurice Butters participated in the press conference. Butters, who is Chairman of the Region Ten Health and the Environment Committee and also a member of the Board of Directors of the Linden Hospital Complex, explained that the facility currently has three ambulances, none of which is in working condition.
Noting that the ambulances are outdated, Butters said for more than five years the Linden Hospital Complex has been making requests to the Ministry of Health for new and modern ambulances as well as additional vehicles to increase the quality of its service to Linden and the outlying areas in Region Ten.
“The vehicles which are at the hospital are over twelve-years-old and the repairs have created an accumulative cost that is equivalent in the cost of three new ambulances,” Butters said. He further stated that over two months ago, the lone functioning ambulance broke down with mechanical problems on the East Bank Demerara Public Road while taking a patient to the Georgetown Hospital and since then no replacement ambulance has been assigned to the Linden Hospital Complex.
“Repeated calls were made to the Permanent Secretary, the Deputy Permanent Secretary and the Chairman of the Linden Hospital Complex Board to get the (Health) Ministry to have an ambulance sent to Linden temporarily until a permanent one could be secured for Linden. But all I’ve been getting from the PS, first of all, is some level of arrogance and resentment and promises from the Deputy PS and the Chairman. ”
Butters further stated that when the matter was raised at the last hospital board meeting, two Thursdays ago, the Chairman of the Board sarcastically asked if members of the board were acquainted with the definition of an ambulance. He added that no further step has been taken to have an ambulance sent to Linden. “Within this period of time, we had two accidents,” Butters said.
According to him, one of the minibuses at the hospital has been converted to provide a sort of ambulance service but because it does not have IV stands, a nurse was unable to use her arm for some time, recently because she had to hold an IV bag in an awkward position to ensure that a patient received intravenous fluid while being transported from Linden to Georgetown.
Lewis, Collins, Rutherford and Gonsalves, in echoing the disgust of the Regional Chairman and Butters, also pointed to the need for a special river ambulance to service Kwakwani and other areas in the Upper Berbice River. They all vowed that the Regional Democratic Council will take more militant action if Region Ten is not given an ambulance within a week.
Councillor Collins further stated that one ambulance is not enough. According to him, a region as large as Region Ten should have four ambulances – two at Linden and Kwakwani, respectively. “So that if one has to leave Linden to go to Georgetown there is still one available to deal with any emergency that pops up in Linden and the same if an ambulance leaves Kwakwani.”