New ambulance finally arrives

Two more expected soon

A new ambulance has arrived on Grand Cayman, boosting a fleet that has been dangerously depleted for more than nine months.

The new vehicle was expected to be on the road Wednesday, giving the Island three functional ambulances out of a usual fleet of five.

Two more new ambulances are expected to arrive in the next month, lifting Emergency Medical Services out of a precarious situation that has been blamed on long-running funding delays within the Ministry of Health.

Emergency Medical Services Manager Stephen Duval and other paramedics were on hand when the $120,000 vehicle arrived at the Cayman Islands Hospital Tuesday.

‘This vehicle we were definitely waiting on,’ Mr. Duval said of the van-style type-II ambulance.

Health Services Authority Medical Director Dr. Greg Hoeksema was also excited about the new vehicle’s arrival.

‘It’s very exciting that it’s finally here,’ he said. ‘It’s plugging an important gap right now.’

Depleted fleet

Ideally, Grand Cayman’s ambulance fleet consists of three vehicles – based in West Bay, George Town and North Side – and two back up vehicles.

But the destruction of one new vehicle in an August 2008 crash, combined with a string of recent breakdowns has meant that the Island has been served by as few as two out-of-date and unreliable vehicles recently.

Those two vehicles are tens of thousands of miles beyond their projected lifespan. One has storm damage from Hurricane Ivan and even has ‘non-emergency care’ written across its hood.

Hospital administrators have made do in North Side by basing paramedics at the Frank Sound Fire Station. They have responded to incidents in a fire services van, providing emergency care until an ambulance has been able to arrive.

When the newer ambulance was written off in late August, former Health Minister Anthony Eden vowed to get the vehicle ‘in the shortest possible timeframe’.

The Caymanian Compass understands that Mr. Eden’s People’s Progressive Movement Cabinet colleagues agreed to the purchase of three new vehicles within weeks of the accident.

But for reasons top Ministry of Health officials have never explained, those funds weren’t released to the HSA until about eight months later.

Ministry Deputy Chief Officer Leonard Dilbert pledged to respond to the Compass’s questions on the delay when contacted in April, but no response was ever received.

The total cost of the three new vehicles is about $300,000.