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Waiver blockade irks diaspora as Customs imposes duty on ambulance

Published:Monday | July 24, 2017 | 12:00 AMEdmond Campbell

A charity organisation formed by members from the Jamaican diaspora in the United Kingdom (UK) is peeved that an ambulance it donated to Noel Holmes Hospital in Lucea, Hanover, has been languishing at Kingston Wharves for 11 months while the authorities insist that a nearly $5 million duty on the vehicle be paid before it can be cleared.

Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton told members of the diaspora at the Jamaica Conference Centre yesterday that an International Monetary Fund (IMF) agreement barred the Government from granting a waiver to clear the vehicle.

"I have explained to the donor a thousand times why I can't call Customs and tell them to clear the vehicle because the rules do not allow it," Tufton insisted.

Members of the diaspora were attending the Jamaica 55 Diaspora Conference.

However, Linda Hudson, a barrister who works closely with the UK charity that shipped the vehicle to Jamaica in June 2016, told The Gleaner that there was no working ambulance at Noel Holmes Hospital in Hanover.




She said that one of the major donors, an elderly man in the UK, did not live to see the vehicle cleared from the wharves. "He hasn't even had, one would think, the pleasure of seeing the ambulance handed over to the hospital, and it's been constant battling, back and forth with the Ministry of Health."

Hudson argued that the very least that the Government could do was to waive the cost on duty when philanthropists make a donation to a hospital.

Noel Holmes, which is a Type C hospital, had been faced with other challenges, including inadequate medical staff to provide health care to persons who visit the facility.

The ambulance, which was donated by Friends of the Noel Holmes Hospital and West Haven Children's Home Charity UK, does not escape duty charges although it falls under the category of gift and charity. According to Tufton, motor vehicles do not fall outside the IMF stipulations.

"I have personally made appeals to the Ministry of Finance and spoken to my colleague minister (Audley) Shaw. ... Recently, we have decided to grant a moratorium on the US$39,000 that is required to clear the vehicle and allow us to budget to pay for it in the next financial year."

Ambulance to be cleared by August - ministry

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health Sancia Bennett Templer says her ministry will be getting a moratorium from the Ministry of Finance to clear an ambulance, in a matter of weeks, from the Kingston Wharves that was donated by a United Kingdom charity group.

She told The Gleaner yesterday that the vehicle, which was on the wharves for 11 months, would be cleared in another three weeks.