Erica Virtue, Senior Gleaner Writer
The University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI), the main teaching hospital in the Caribbean, is currently operating with one functional ambulance.
A well-placed source told The Sunday Gleaner that the hospital has been operating like this for at least a month, and sometimes it has none because the working unit has to be taken out for repairs.
"At best, we have had three working ambulances. Two reasonably good ones, and one pop-down one. But, there are times when all three are out and we have no ambulance in use," said the source, who asked not to be named because he is not authorised to speak to the media.
At present, the hospital's ambulance service is being assisted by the Domiciliary (Dom) Service, which primarily provides postnatal care to new mothers in some communities around the Corporate Area.
"Where the patients can sit by themselves, Dom Service vehicles help," said the source, who noted that the ambulance service was required to transfer patients between UHWI and the Kingston Public Hospital (KPH), as well as imaging facilities when machines at the hospital are not working.
"UHWI sometimes sends patients to KPH, for example, if the CT machine here is not working. Sometimes we have to use private facilities also. So we need to have working ambulances, especially as UHWI's CT machines pop down so often," the source said.
For weeks, the CT machines at UHWI and the KPH were not in service.
However, on Wednesday, the CT machine at UHWI was again ready for use, as repairs had been completed.
Chief executive officer at UHWI, Dr Trevor McCartney, could not be reached for comment. Efforts to contact Health Minister Dr Fenton Ferguson were also unsuccessful.
SHORTAGE OF RESOURCES
However, in a release recently, Ferguson accepted that the health sector was short of resources and said his ministry was moving forward in its bid to seek public-private partnerships in various areas of health-care delivery.
"The Government cannot continue to provide all the start-up financing required to update and modernise our health infrastructure and delivery systems.
"Public-private partnerships are seen as the ideal mechanism that creates entrepreneurial opportunities, provides an opportunity for private investments, and allows the Government optimal use of its fiscal space," said Ferguson.
He said the ministry has given the Development Bank of Jamaica the mandate to develop a national policy framework for public-private partnerships.
Within this policy framework, he said, the ministry will enter into further public-private arrangements, taking account of the requirements specific to health and health care.