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Experts ask politicians to stop offering ambulance services

The Commissioner of Emergency Medical Services Dr John Baptist Waniaye

Kampala, Uganda |  THE INDEPENDENT |  The Commissioner of Emergency Medical Services Dr John Baptist Waniaye has revealed that he is facing gross resistance from politicians in his quest to sanitize ambulance services in the country.

Waniaye said this on Wednesday as he met a team of researchers who have conducted studies on road traffic injuries in the country and partly blame the poor ambulance system for thousands of deaths reported annually arising from road crashes.

According to the report by the Uganda Police, a total of 3,880 people perished in road accidents last year. But researchers say that some of these could have been saved if they had proper ambulance systems to evacuate them early on for necessary emergency care.

In the absence of such, some ended up having aggravated injuries as they are mostly transported on police pick-ups or Good Samaritan drivers on the road. 

As a temporary measure, Waniaye says the Ministry of Health early this year allocated some ten ambulances to Uganda Red Cross to offer help to accident victims on some highways that are hot spots for accidents.  These are not sufficient and the Police are still seen dropping victims at health facilities.

But Waniaye blames it on the absence of a proper policy on how the country’s emergency health services can be run. He adds that despite getting a certificate of financial implication from the Ministry of Finance more than two years ago, having a policy has stalled at the cabinet level.

He says cabinet feels they don’t need a policy on emergency services, yet its absence means little allocation to the likes of ambulances and other areas of emergency care. 

However, as this is happening, with the onset of the political campaigns, several MPs and councillors have been seen campaigning on having provided their electorate with ambulances for instance in Kawempe division, an Aspirant on councillorship who has often been seen driving the ambulance dropping off patients at health facilities calls herself an ambulance councillor in her campaign slogan. 

Apart from her, other cars of different make have been seen driving through Kampala suburbs branded with donor politicians photos and names. It has become a trend for MPs to buy ambulances supposedly for their constituents, and end up personally driving them. Nakawa County MP Micheal Kabaziguruka had an accident while driving a patient in his ambulance to the hospital.

Dr Olive Kobusingye, a trauma and injuries expert based at the Makerere University School of Public Health warns that this is all wrong and should be quickly fixed. For her, it’s not a responsibility of an MP to offer such a service and it’s worse that they are offering care that can endanger beneficiaries, although it looks a noble cause since they usually don’t have health workers on board.

According to Waniaye, once the policy is in place, they are planning to divide the ambulance into three – Type A which is only for patients transport, Type B -for universal coverage where they will have medicines and health workers to offer basic life support and Type C where a patient will be able to get advanced life support aboard.

Although he couldn’t attach any anticipated price to this, Waniaye said initially they will have 500 type B and 20 Type C ambulances in addition to five boat ambulances and aeromedical services that will be offered by the Uganda Police and the army.

Currently, there’s only one Type C ambulance in the whole country being managed by the Uganda Heart Institute.

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