THROUGHOUT the past ten years the people of Cyprus have heard countless empty promises about the need to upgrade the island’s ambulance services, whose shortcomings are responsible for at least 50 deaths a year.
Various plans have been drafted but none have been implemented because, according to various sources, the Finance Ministry Planning Bureau did not release the funds.
The most recent study has been already sent back to the health ministry with a request for more details.
It provides, among others, for the creation of a paramedic school, a central co-ordinating centre and plans for ambulances to be stationed all over cities in order to cut response times.
An official source told the Sunday Mail that the ambulance service has two fundamental problems: it has no autonomous structure – they are currently under respective emergency room directors, and they lack the necessary infrastructure and training.
“How can you have a decent service when ambulances are used daily to ferry blood from one hospital to another, for example?” the source said.
The current staff of an ambulance is made up of a nurse from the emergency room and a driver whose only qualifications are a secondary school leaving certificate and a driving licence.
The nurses are not permanent ambulance staff but are chosen at random from the emergency room shifts.
The source revealed that the previous administration’s cabinet had approved the funds for the creation of a central co-ordinating centre but nothing was done.
They also approved funds to train people as paramedics who in turn would train others, as well as using defibrillators.
A defibrillator training program is currently under way and though it has been reported that 24 people attended a specialised training program in Greece, it is understood that nothing else was done.
The source put the blame squarely on the Planning Bureau whose bureaucrats only seemed to care about saving money.
“It is a cancerous entity that needs to be removed from the civil service.
“It is totally unacceptable,” the source said.
The source suggested that ministries should be allowed to allocate their budgets according to their respective priorities and not leave it to a central bureaucracy who apparently could not grasp the gravity of the situation.
“They chop plans because they are expensive. They are a state within a state,” the source said.
“We have to improve this (the ambulance service); we can’t continue like this with European Union accession.
“The EU will bury us.”
Two or three years ago a health ministry study said that 50 lives were lost each year because of the inadequacies of the ambulance system.
Despite renewing the ambulance fleet frequently and introducing state of the art equipment, experts argue that all this was futile when the staff did not know how to use it.