Island ambulance a reality

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 13, No. 1            January 16, 2003

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New ambulance to serve Ambergris Caye

It has been a long time coming but it would appear emergency ambulance services will soon be a reality for residents and visitors in San Pedro Town. Thanks to the hard work and perseverance of a few dedicated individuals, the island will shortly be able to boast reliable "first response" to emergencies involving situations such as drowning, heart attack, traffic accident and burn victims.

    According to Dr. Jeff Sersland of the Medical University of the Americas (MUA) this project has been in the making for over eighteen months. Presenting the initial concept to Dr. Sersland was local resident (living abroad) Eddie Halliday Jr. At that time, Mr. Halliday and the doctor discussed establishing a non-government organization to be named "Better Equipped Physicians for a Healthier Community" to assist the island's doctors and address emergency response health care needs.

    Initial fundraising efforts to support the project were not as profitable as originally hoped, but now, with the assistance of several local businesses and organizations, the first ambulance has arrived on Ambergris Caye. Dr. Sersland gave credit to Senator Barry Bowen who facilitated the purchase of the $42,000 vehicle through Belize Estates, an automobile dealership on the Belize mainland. "Much recognition and appreciation must also be given to Caribe Island Resort, The Villas at Banyan Bay, Banana Beach Resort, the Belize Bank and the San Pedro Lions Club for their valuable contributions to this project. Although they have given significant assistance, additional support is needed to provide the necessary staff and supplies needed to run the ambulance service."

    Dr. Sersland told The San Pedro Sun the new ambulance service will be called San Pedro Emergency Rescue Service. He explained that MUA will handle the operations of the service under the guidelines of a management plan established by a committee consisting of San Pedro health care workers, MUA faculty and student representatives, a San Pedro Lions Club representative and other significant members who can contribute their time to this worthwhile project.

    According to Dr. Sersland, the short-term goals of the San Pedro Emergency Rescue Service, hopefully within 30 days, are to establish an emergency contact number and begin functioning as a 24-hour service. The ambulance will be manned by Andrew Remuzzi, an instructor with advanced life support certification and former emergency medical technician (EMT), and three other staff members. Plans are that a local guide, either a taxi driver or tour guide will also assist with the driving for the service in order to ensure the rapid location of an emergency caller. 

    Not fully equipped as yet, the island's new ambulance presently contains two stretchers, and oxygen and IV (intravenous) supplies. It is equipped with a PA (public address) system, warning/alert siren and will contain a citizen's band radio. Physicians are being contacted for their interest in participating in the service and will be provided pagers for quick response. "We are also hoping to equip the ambulance very soon with a defibrillator (used to stop irregular heart rhythms) and basic emergency pharmaceuticals," added Dr. Sersland.

    Dr. Sersland explained that discussions are underway to provide a two to three-bed immediate care facility to complement the new service, located either at MUA, at the San Pedro Lions Clinic or its inter-community hospital when finished. He said plans are to involve MUA students and train police, firefighters and other interested members of the public in all types of emergency response skills from basic first aid to cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Free training will begin at MUA this semester and anyone wishing to participate may call the school to register.

    Long term plans for the SP Emergency Rescue Service include implementing a minimal fee to meet the costs of maintaining this service. Already a number of hotels and resorts have expressed their interest in assisting this valuable addition to the emergency health care needs of the island. Anyone needing more information or wishing to donate financially or make other contributions may contact the Medical University of the Americas at 226-3744 or e-mail:
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