North-east health facilities get transportation boost
The two ambulances and a panel van gifted to NERHA to improve on their service delivery

OCHO RIOS, St Ann — Services provided by the three facilities within the North East Regional Health Authority (NERHA) are expected to be improved with the recent donation of three vehicles, boosting NERHA's fleet to 60.

On Wednesday, the St Mary Health Centre and St Ann's Bay Regional Hospital each received a fully equipped ambulance, while Port Maria Hospital was provided with a panel van. The ambulances are 2022 models while the van is a 2023 vehicle.

"These vehicles will enhance the hospitals' capabilities to move supplies needed for… operation, reducing the cost associated with mileage and transportation of goods and protecting these goods while in transit," said NERHA Regional Director Fabia Lamm.

She was speaking at the official handover ceremony held at NERHA'S office at Ocean Village Plaza in Ocho Rios.

Officials at the ribbon-cutting for the handover of ambulances to the St Ann's Bay Hospital and St Mary Health Centre. (Photos: Akera Davis)

The vehicles, valued at $33.47 million in total, will be used to cover St Ann, St Mary and Portland.

"St Ann's Bay Regional Hospital will get one ambulance, increasing its fleet from five to six and overall number of vehicles from seven to eight. St Mary Health Department will get one ambulance to strengthen its response to emergency and, based on their gravity of illness, to transfer patients from the health centre in the parish to hospitals. This will increase its total from one to two and their cumulative from eight to nine. The panel van will be given to Port Maria Hospital to increase their vehicles from three to four as their three vehicles are ambulances," Lamm said.

She added that while there is still a gap between what is available and the ideal number of ambulances needed in the region, NERHA is immensely grateful for the gifts.

"I want to express our appreciation to the procurement and finance teams for their continued commitment in ensuring the vehicles are serviced, repaired and road worthy," said Lamm.

Health-care officials in attendance during the handover of three service vehicles to various facilities in the NERHA region

"After today the current gap of ambulances will be five; and this is if all things remain equal. In the primary area, which is health centres and clinics, we will have a gap of two; and in secondary, which is our hospital, the gap will be three," she added.

NERHA board chairman, Laura Heron, said her team is actively working to procure additional vehicles for the region along with other major upgrades to the health-care system.

"We have a number of major projects ongoing to provide primary care service which is a part of the primary health-care reform. I'm very encouraged by that because I know it will help to alleviate some of the stress we undergo on a day-to-day basis at our secondary facilities. We will continue to work tirelessly to achieve our vision for health 2030," Heron promised.

Ambulance driver at Port Maria Hospital Kesna Bailey beamed with joy as he sat around the steering wheel of the new panel van that was handed over to the hospital.

Inside the ambulance presented to the St Ann's Bay Hospital

"This will benefit staff as well as the hospitals in a number of ways. For the most part, we have been using the utility vehicles from the health department, so now we have our own. So, the transporting of blood and samples from one hospital to another will be easier," he told the Jamaica Observer.

Lamm, meanwhile, has urged health-care professionals to handle the vehicles with care.

"It is important to note that as of the 31st of December 2022, 85 per cent [of our vehicles] are in service and that would be 48 of the 57. We implore our drivers and health-care team to protect these assets to ensure that we can serve our patients," she added.

Member of Parliament for St Ann North Eastern Marsha Smith, who was also in attendance at the function, commended NERHA's dedication to fulfilling its role.

Port Maria Hospital ambulance driver Kesna Bailey tries out the panel van gifted to the hospital.

"NERHA has been quietly but resolutely putting all the plans in place to ensure that the north-eastern region of the country is improved. These service vehicles, in the long term, will ensure that we have a better resourced health system that is able to manage the things that come its way and this will create the conditions needed for a better society," said Smith.

BY AKERA DAVIS Observer writer

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