SRHA staff member saving millions and lives

June 19, 2019
The three retrofitted ambulances.
The three retrofitted ambulances.
Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton (left) greets Robert Robinson, transport coordinator for the Southern Regional Health Authority.
Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton (left) greets Robert Robinson, transport coordinator for the Southern Regional Health Authority.

An idea spawned by one innovative transport coordinator has resulted in millions of dollars in savings for the public purse.

This has now led to five retrofitted ambulances being available to the Southern Regional Health Authority (SRHA).

Three of them were handed over last Thursday on the grounds of Percy Junor Hospital in Manchester.

The idea for purchasing new Toyota buses and retrofitting them to the users' specifications is the brainchild of the SRHA's fleet coordinator, Robert Robinson, who conceptualised them to fill the grave need for more ambulances in the region.

The three new units bring the region's tally to 14, but the SRHA needs 20 to efficiently provide the life-saving services.

Speaking to the CENTRAL STAR, Robinson said, "In 2016, the quota of ambulances was not sufficient to adequately handle the volume of work we have. I made a proposal to purchase ambulances from Toyota Jamaica, but at the time a new ambulance cost $12 million. So I thought if we buy the new 14-seater buses and converted them to ambulances it would be cheaper," Robinson said.

Robinson made the proposal to his regional director who accepted it. A new 14-seater bus was $4.5 million at the time and it cost a total of $7 million to retrofit it, putting the region in a position to get two retrofitted ambulances for the price of one.

The actual work was done locally but some of the stretchers, sirens and lights were brought into the island by a supplier. The two buses are still in very good condition and used every day.

The North East Regional Health Authority (NERHA) has since used the method.

Robinson added that the dash cam installed is a new feature which acts as a rear view mirror, a camera for the front of the vehicle as well as a monitoring camera to track the vehicle.

The specifications were added after consultation with the primary users of the ambulances, which are expected to give at least 10 good years of service.

The overall cost of the three retrofitted ambulances is just below $31 million, at little more than $10 million each.

The current cost of a Toyota ambulance is $14 million, which means SRHA has saved $4 million.

It takes six months to deliver a new ambulance but the retrofitted units were completed in six weeks.

Among the features of each ambulance are: heart monitor, suction machines, ECG machine, fog lamps, double nurses seats, fire extinguisher, storage area, non-stick flooring, inverter, plus cupboards to store vital medical equipment.

Guest speaker at the handover, Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton, lauded Robinson for his initiative.

"Sometimes we ignore the importance of our support staff; they may not be critical in training and capacity but are absolutely fundamental in terms of saving lives. There is no greater manifestation of that than the ambulance driver when it comes to someone who has a traumatic experience such as motor vehicle accident, heart attack or stroke, and must be moved from once place to the next in a timely manner," Dr Tufton said.

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