TODAY The Tribune sends out an SOS requesting information that might lead to the Public Hospital Authority locating its missing ambulances.
Between November, 2012 and May 2016, the Public Hospital Authority (PHA) received 15 new ambulances at a total cost of $2,541,187.
Presently, of that 15 the new PHA board can only locate six ambulances in New Providence and two in Grand Bahama. And of those six in New Providence, three are out of commission awaiting parts. They have been waiting for these parts for three months. However, it was soon discovered that not only had the PLP government left the new government with a $12m debt in accounts payable, but Friendly Ford had not been paid for a year. No wonder the ambulances, for want of unpaid bills, still sit idle awaiting new equipment to get their engines turning over again.
It has been suggested that the payment for these ambulances was made through National Insurance. Maybe someone at NIB could contribute information that might help solve the mystery.
It is estimated, based on population and demand for ambulance service, that about eight to 12 vehicles in running order are needed for New Providence. As for Grand Bahama, three to four vehicles are required. At present, Grand Bahama has only two vehicles on the road.
In November 2012, the Public Hospitals Authority commissioned five new state-of-the art ambulances at a cost of $1.14m. The boast at the time was that with this acquisition The Bahamas became one of only two Caribbean countries to acquire the latest technology in ambulances. The ambulances, according to then PHA chairman Frank Smith, were equipped with engines that could withstand the “high sulphur grade diesel” sold in The Bahamas. In addition, he said, the new engines would suffer fewer mechanical difficulties with this feature. It would be interesting to know if these are the engines that have now broken down.
At that time – 2012 – then Health Minister Dr Perry Gomez revealed that many of New Providence’s ambulances had been kept in service longer than the international standard of three years. He said that, with the exception of five ambulances purchased in 2011, the ambulance fleet was comprised of vehicles purchased between 2002 and 2006. However, since 2008 the need for ambulance service had increased with demands in 2011 being almost 50 calls a day.
Despite this, PHA and EMS services were criticised when it was revealed that – like now – many vehicles were out of service for lack of repair. In February 2012, The Tribune was told that two ambulances had broken down while rushing patients to hospital — leaving the service with only one ambulance for that day. It was revealed that between 2010 and 2011, EMS personnel responded to 400 shootings and 500 stabbings. It would be interesting to know what the count is today — and with millions spent, only three ambulances are now available.
The ten new ambulances arriving in Nassau on May 1, 2016, at a cost of $1,401,187 was said to be the first instalment of 25 new ambulances allocated as part of PHA’s “health system strengthening initiative”.
If this is so where are all of these ambulances being hidden? So far, only six have been located in Nassau, and of those six, three are out of commission awaiting parts, presumably from Friendly Ford, which still awaits payment for past orders.
Our recommendation is that a forensic audit should be undertaken immediately of every department of this public hospital and its outlying clinics. From what we hear it would be wise to audit all government departments. This should be the first decision a new government makes on taking over from a former administration so that it knows early exactly what problems to expect.
A forensic audit is strongly recommended for the Princess Margaret Hospital.