Government to introduce 26 ‘sea-ambulances’ by end of year

The government hopes to introduce 26 ‘sea-ambulances’ by the end of the year to provide emergency transportation for patients from all inhabited islands in the country, Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed has said.

Speaking at a ceremony held at the official jetty in Malé this morning to inaugurate the sea-ambulance service, Dr Jameel noted that providing emergency medical evacuation services to citizens in the atolls was a campaign pledge of President Abdulla Yameen.

The introduction of the sea-ambulance service “for the first in Maldivian history” would solve one of the biggest problems facing the health sector, Jameel said, which was providing urgent medical treatment to patients in geographically dispersed islands.

The cost of transporting patients from the atolls to the capital would also be significantly reduced, he noted.

The vice president said he hoped ongoing collaborative efforts by the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Defence would see the completion of 26 refurbished speedboats by the end of the year.

According to the Health Ministry, the two speedboats launched today will be used in Raa and Baa atolls whilst paramedical and first-aid training will be provided to the crew.

As efforts to refit speedboats were ongoing “swiftly,” the ministry said it expects to introduce two further sea-ambulances in a month and a half.

The government plans to divide the country into 23 areas to cover all inhabited islands, the ministry explained in a statement, noting that the sea-ambulances would be operated and maintained by the Maldives National Defence Force based on instructions from the Health Ministry.

Meanwhile, at today’s ceremony, the vice president officially handed over a medical equipment kit to the captain of the ‎’Kudahuvadhoo Sea Ambulance’, Mohamed Zakariya, and was provided ‎a tour.

A demonstration of sea-ambulance services ‎was also presented at the ceremony.

In his speech, Jameel meanwhile contended that the current administration had inherited a “weakened” health system, which it was attempting to “put back on its feet.”

Problems in the health sector ranged from the quality of services provided at health centres in the atolls to the lack of medical equipment, he added.

“I would like to say that we have complete confidence that we will be able to provide [health] services to the public’s satisfaction before too long,” he said.

The vice president called on employees, managers and administrative staff in the health sector to put aside political differences and to work with the government to meet the expectations of the public.

Among the achievements of President Abdulla Yameen’s administration so far was the establishment of a salary framework for doctors this month, Jameel said, which he suggested would address complaints of the lack of doctors in the atolls.

More than 200 doctors will be recruited in the near future for hospitals and health centres in the atolls, Jameel added.

The Health Ministry made an announcement last week seeking 225 doctors, including 91 medical officers, 25 gynaecologists, 19 children’s doctors, 17 physicians, 14 anaesthesiologists, 14 surgeons, 11 eye doctors, seven orthopaedic doctors, seven ENT doctors, and seven psychiatrists.

The government also revealed plans to upgrade the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) in a US$7 million renovation project last week.