WALVIS BAY – The Erongo region does not have enough ambulances to respond to medical emergencies.
Walvis Bay is currently borrowing an ambulance from Omaruru, while the Swakopmund State Hospital ambulance is also servicing Arandis.
The Arandis ambulance was written off last year after it was involved in an accident.
The Omaruru ambulance is currently also servicing rural areas, such as Okombahe, situated about 70 kilometres from Omaruru. The executive director of the health ministry, Ben Nangombe, confirmed the shortage of ambulances yesterday.
According to him, Erongo is not the only region, but the entire country is experiencing a shortage of ambulances, as the current fleet is ageing and some of the ambulances were involved in accidents.
Government in 2018 placed a moratorium on the purchasing of new vehicles to control expenditure. “The challenge is felt nationwide, and we are working on it. It is a critical need to strengthen our health system; it is receiving serious attention. The ministry has made a proposal that ambulances be classified as equipment and not vehicles to make the process easy,” he explained.
Health director for Erongo Anna Jonas yesterday said at least three ambulances were involved in accidents last year, while some have become redundant.
“We needed to get another ambulance – either from Usakos or Omaruru – to assist in Walvis Bay when the town’s State ambulance broke down. The garages were also struggling with vehicle parts – that is why we requested an ambulance from Omaruru to assist,” Jonas explained. She added each district needs at least one ambulance.
New Era understands that other regions are also struggling with the shortage of ambulances.
Jonas, during a meeting with the National Planning Commission and the finance ministry at Walvis Bay last year, requested that the health ministry be exempted from the moratorium so that it can purchase new ambulances.
New Era also understands that some of the ambulances are ageing and sometimes break down while transporting patients or responding to medical emergencies.
Walvis Bay Urban constituency councillor Deriou Benson also expressed his concern over the overall state of public health facilities as well as the lack of ambulances in the region.
Benson said there are too many complaints, especially with the shortage of ambulances.
“We can’t turn a blind eye to that. I just learned that we are borrowing an ambulance from Omaruru and it is not working. That is how serious the situation is,” he said. According to him, they are planning to engage various embassies and lobby for ambulance donations.
“Erongo, especially Walvis Bay, is big – and it is a concern that the State does not have a running ambulance for the town. I am appealing to the government to give attention to the health sector, procure essential goods, such ambulances and renovate health facilities,” Benson said.