The Ministry of Health has included boat ambulances among its priorities in the next financial year 2019/2020 budget as one of the interventions to strengthen emergency care service delivery in the country, a top official has revealed.
Dr John Nambohe, the ministry's commissioner of Emergency Medical Services, said there are huge gaps in emergency response on water bodies whenever disasters hit, which leads to many preventable deaths, citing the recent boat cruise accident that claimed more than 30 lives.
"We shall start with a few [boat ambulances] in the over ten districts in the country surrounded by water bodies," Dr Nambohe said.
Some of the districts in Uganda that are surrounded by water bodies include Kalangala, Buvuma, Jinja, Buikwe, Masaka, Hoima, Buliisa, Ntoroko, Mukono, and Namayingo. Others are Kaberamaido, Kaliro, Kamuli, Rakai, Mpigi, Mayuge, Nebbi, and Kasese.
He said they are also working with the Transport ministry to start equipping fishermen on the different lakes and rivers with the best life-saving skills in case of any disaster unlike now where most rescuers rush to grab the victims' belongings.
"We thank the Uganda police and army who have been rescuing people on water bodies only that their boats and vehicles do not have the necessary equipment to offer emergency health services," he added.
Dr Nambohe was speaking to Daily Monitor on the sidelines of a meeting on Emergency Preparedness and Response in Uganda focusing on the role of health workers organised by the ministry of Health at Davis Lecture Theatre, Mulago Hospital, in Kampala yesterday.
Last month, a boat transporting more than 100 revellers from Ggaba Landing Site in Kampala to Mpatta in Mukono District capsized in Lake Victoria killing dozens with different stakeholders saying majority of transporters on Ugandan waters use unlicensed canoes and boats to ferry people and cargo.
At the meeting, the different health workers who were in attendance complained of the poorly equipped intensive care unit in the different hospitals where they operate, saying this deters their ability to provide emergency services.
Prof Charles Ibingira, the principal of Makerere University College of Health Sciences, said although the university has invested in training medical students on how to offer emergency care, they are failed by the poor coordination among government agencies.
"We need to ensure proper coordination on how that money trickles down in the shortest time possible to help the victims of disaster," Prof Ibingira said.
However, the failure to effect the Uganda National Ambulance Service that has stalled since its launch in 2015 casts doubt on whether the boat ambulance plan will bear fruit.
Some of the districts in Uganda that are surrounded by water bodies include Kalangala, Buvuma, Jinja, Buikwe, Masaka, Hoima, Buliisa, Ntoroko, Mukono, and Namayingo. Others are Kaberamaido, Kaliro, Kamuli, Rakai, Mpigi, Mayuge, Nebbi, Kasese