Rejuvenated National Ambulance Service Is Impacting Communities
Today we will try something different. Instead of looking at current political news and all that, we will consider a narrative which is informative, instructive and views the crucial role services like effective ambulance services play in pre-hospital emergency medical care. Let us consider this story involving a 55 year old man who began to experience chest pains. The wife calls the family doctor who without wasting time rushed down to the man’s house and after first 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 around immediately administer cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CRS) which lead to the stabilization of the patient. On reaching the hospital, CPR is co to used and the patient’s life was saved.
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.
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.
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.
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 nebulizers. One of the promises that the President made during the commissioning of the ambulances was to ensure the digitization of the ambulance dispatch management system.
Today, the digitization 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 center to determine the nearest ambulance to dispatch.
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.
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.
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