HSA, Heart Fund replacing ambulances

The Health Services Authority and the Cayman Heart Fund are seeking $150,000 to replace one of the hospital’s two decade-old ambulances, kicking off their efforts with Discovery Day’s 5K Walk/Run charity drive. 

The fund has already raised $15,000 from its corporate sponsors, and will seek the balance during the next year, hoping to replace one of the George Town Hospital’s Ford E450 emergency vehicles, purchased between 2001 and 2004. 

“We have a schedule, and look at this after about 120,000 miles,” said Stephen Duval, emergency medical services manager at the hospital. “That’s when maintenance costs go through the roof.” 

The charity’s initial fundraising effort was Monday’s 8th annual 5k Walk/Run between 6:30 a.m. and 10 a.m., starting in Camana Bay. Speaking prior to the event, Heart Fund Chairman David Dinner said he hoped to raise “between $20,000 and $25,000” for the project. 

Costs for a U.S.-made ambulance have risen more than 27 percent in the last 10 years, when the HSA paid $110,000 for each of its diesel-powered Fords. While the pair was placed in a supplementary role after the HSA’s 2009 acquisition of two, US$150,000, gasoline-operated Chevrolet “Trauma Hawks,” followed by a third in 2014, both older vehicles still have to be replaced, even if not simultaneously. 

“The two Fords,” said Mr. Duval, “are now spare vehicles used when the Chevys go in for maintenance. We don’t necessarily need two spare vehicles at the same time, and can stagger the costs. Currently the plan is to replace one.” 

Mr. Dinner said costs to replace both were daunting. ”We think it’s a practical matter. We try to set realistic goals, and replacing one was the most pressing.” 

The price escalation, he said, is “like anything to do with healthcare costs,” particularly in the U.S., “a kind of ‘price creep,’ as well as what it takes for a state-of-the-art vehicle.” 

For example, he cited an “automatic chest compressor” in each new car, never previously part of older models. The additions and improvements were likely to require a redesign of the interior, further boosting costs. 

Because Cayman’s emergency medical personnel have trained largely in the U.S., North American standards predominate, meaning alternative purchasing options – the U.K., Europe, Japan, Korea – were never considered. 

“We have always followed North American standards,” Mr. Dinner said, “so that has been our focus.” 

Mr. Duval was more precise: “The procurement of our ambulances takes careful review and consideration of a number of both clinical and operational factors. They will include, but [are] not limited to the following: safety, ergonomics, affordability, intended use and capabilities. 

“The initial cost of the vehicle is more expensive due to new technology, design and type vehicle. This is offset, however, in our replacement plan where the vehicles are retrofitted and upgraded after five years or 100,000-125,000 miles at approximately half the cost of a new vehicle,” he said. 

Meanwhile, Health Services Authority CEO Lizzette Yearwood said the Ministry of Health had not contributed to the effort, but only because the Heart Fund had picked up the project. 

“Year-to year,” she said, “the ministry does an ‘output,’ and we budget for vehicles, for replacements and upgrades. 

“This year, though, the Cayman Heart Fund met; every year they chose a charity to match their efforts. This year, they decided to take this. 

“We do it on a strategic basis, and with the Heart Fund doing the ambulances, we can redirect the [ministry] monies elsewhere.” 

Mr. Dinner, who ran in Monday’s 5K event, estimated the Heart Fund would need another year to complete fundraising, but hoped for an accelerated timetable: “I suspect it will take another year, but we’re hoping that with a little hustle and a little ingenuity, people will help support us – and maybe we can get that done a little sooner.” 

No other events had been scheduled, however: “We have not identified anything yet. We do a number of events,” he said, but most, like the annual Red Dress Gala, already have their revenues allotted. 

“We don’t have any other runs or galas scheduled,” he said, although he anticipated fresh planning.  

If the fund tapped some of its own donors, he said, the fundraising period might be cut.  

“If we could cut that to six months or eight months, we’d be doing really well,” he said. 

“I suspect it will take another year, but we’re hoping that with a little hustle and a little ingenuity, people will help support us.”
David Dinner, chairman, Cayman Heart Fund 

A Chevy ambulance parked at the Cayman Islands Hospital. The Health Services Authority is looking to buy a new ambulance with the help of the Cayman Heart Fund. – Photo: Chris Court


  1. We should not have to be scraping pennies from the bottom of the kitty to buy an ambulance with up to date equipment. I am sure from after Ivan, those two have seen their days.
    We have a very efficient ambulance crew, if you were dying they would make you laugh. Know their job well and very nice crew.
    They deserve up to date ambulance and equipment, after all who knows the life that may be saved. We are blessed in many ways, some places around us, an ambulance does not arrive unless there are at least five people sick one time.