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Rejuvenated National Ambulance Service impacts communities


Date: Aug - 21 - 2020 , 08:32 BY: Kwame Asare Boadu

In a piece on ambulance service, the writer gives an instructive scenario involving a 55-year-old man who begins to experience chest pains.

The wife calls the family doctor who rushes to the man’s home and after an initial examination advises the wife to call an ambulance to take her husband to a hospital. On the way to the hospital, the patient suffers a cardiac arrest and the paramedics immediately administer cardiopulmonary resuscitation ((CRS) and the patient stabilises. On arrival at the hospital, CPR is continued and the patient’s life is saved. The narrative is very instructive in view of the crucial role an effective ambulance service plays in pre-hospital emergency medical care.

Hope and disappointment

When the National Ambulance Service (NAS) was birthed in 2004, many were those who welcomed it as a game-changer. As a pilot project then, it started off with 69 newly trained emergency medical technicians (EMTs), nine ambulances and seven stations. Unfortunately, it suffered stunted growth, becoming more of a patient transport service rather than an emergency medical service. By 2016, the fleet of the NAS had reduced to a mere 55.

Light

But the light started to shine on the important national institution when on January, 28, 2020, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo commissioned 307 new, state-of-the-art ambulances for the Service. The procurement of the vehicles was in fulfilment of a campaign pledge the President made to provide one ambulance for each constituency. In the words of the President, the presentation of the 307 ambulances meant that “as against the scenario whereby one ambulance served approximately 524,000 people at the end of December 2016, today, we have a much-improved ratio of 84,000 people.” Eight months since the commissioning of the ambulances, the NAS management says pre-hospital emergency care has seen improvement. Before the coming in of the new ambulances, the Service had 130 ambulance stations across the country but the number has increased to 275.

Monitoring tour

After the first leg of a nationwide monitoring tour to assess how far the ‘new’ NAS is functioning,the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the NAS, Prof. Ahmed Nuhu Zakaria had this to say:” I must say that service delivery has improved.” The tour started off with the five regions of northern Ghana to wit Northern, North East, Savanna, Upper West and Upper East. “Prof. Zakaria said in an interview with the Daily Graphic that now well-equipped ambulances were deployed all over the five regions. “The impact of the National Ambulance Service is now being felt in the northern parts of the country, and it is massive. If you take a place such as Wichaw, for instance, now the seriously sick can get to Wa because of the presence of an ambulance,” he said. In all, there are 64 ambulance stations in the five regions of northern Ghana. These stations are being manned by about 500 Emergency Medical Teams (EMTs). The Upper West has 12 stations, among them are Wichaw, Lambussie, Lawra, Issa and Jirapa; the North East Region has seven stations which include Bunkpurugu, Yonyoo, Gushegu and Nalerigu; the Upper East Region has 16 stations including Navrongo, Paga, Bongo and Bolgatanga; the Savannah Region has 11 stations, among them Bole, Daboya and Damongo, while the Northern Region has 18 stations including Bimbilla, Wulensi, Yendi and Mion.

Training

The EMTs are the fulcrum of an effective ambulance service, and for that reason the management of the NAS has been doing everything to equip them with the necessary know-how to enable them to effectively handle the equipment in the ambulances, which include portable ventilators, in-patient pumps, infusion pumps, injection pumps, patient monitors and nebulisers. One of the promises that the President made during the commissioning of the ambulances was to ensure the digitisation of the ambulance dispatch management system.

Digitisation

Today, the digitisation is on course. The dispatch management system has been integrated with the national digital property addressing system, and many of the calls to the ambulance service are being routed through a computer system, which automatically generate the digital address location of the caller, enabling the control centre to determine the nearest ambulance to dispatch.

More recruitments

In view of the increasing rate of operations of the NAS, the government has given the financial clearance for the recruitment of 450 more drivers to augment the existing strength. In spite of the clearance, the management said the Service would still need more hands and expressed the hope that the government would consider that in due course.

Challenges

In spite of the significant improvement recorded in the activities of the NAS, there still remains some amount of work to be done to bring the operations to the expected limits. Key among the challenges is inadequate office and residential accommodation for staff. It was in that regard that the NAS CEO and his team met the various assemblies and chiefs to help accommodate the NAS in their respective areas. The NAS management also expressed concern about the poor nature of the roads. The officials have, however, expressed the hope that the situation will improve to help protect the ambulances.

credit: graphic.com