By Stephen Kalema

The Ministry of Health has revealed plans to commission a National Ambulance System.

According to Dr Henry Mwebese, the Director General of Health Services in Ministry of Health, the system will cost Shs45 billion.

The system is meant to streamline services provided by the ambulances to patients with emergencies.

“Going forward we are not going to have ambulances stationed at hospitals,” said Mwebesa during the monthly media breakfast on Monday at MOH headquarters.

Recent research shows that ambulance services have been lacking, especially medical facilities in rural areas. Here, patients do not easily access ambulance services.

Only few health facilities at the level of health centre4 have ambulances but at times they do lack fuel.

Dr. Mwebesa said such problems will be solved in case the systems starts.

“Under the system across the country, ambulances will be organized and coordinated by the authority with centres based at a district or regional level,” said Dr. Mwebesa

The ambulance service centre will be charged with receiving calls from the patients or health facilities. An ambulance will then be dispatched to pick the patient and then drop them to the nearest hospital.

“By that time the ambulance is dispatched, drivers and doctors on board will have known where to take the patients,” Dr. Mwebesa explained.

What this means, ideally, is that there will be no ambulances stationed at any hospitals. For the efficient performance of this new system, government is going to recall all ambulances stationed in different health facilities across the country even those which were donated by organisation and individuals.

According to Dr. Mwebesa, the initial cost to start up this ambulance system will cost $12m this will money will be used to procure ambulances, train paramedics and divers. The system is to start in phases, with the first to begin next financial year . The whole process will take about four years.

“We shall recall all ambulances which are working into this system before we can buy other ambulances. Even those bought by politicians, must be working under this new system since they need to be coordinated,” he said.

Those that refuse to join the system will be barred from providing ambulance services.

On the issue of patient of paying for fuel and ambulance drivers, Permanent Secretary Diana Atwine said government is working on modalities, as per the national ambulance policy, on how to finance it.

“Once the policy is out, it will clarify the modalities of payment. This is policy is still in discussion phase and once it is out it will give us clear way how we are going to finance the ambulance operation,” said Dr Atwine.