About five months after the Nigerian government disbursed N327 million to buy ambulances, the vehicles are yet to appear on the designated highways in the country.
The Ambulance, Referral and Trauma Services are part of Emergency Medical Treatment (EMT) of the Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF) provided by the National Health Act, 2014.
The operation manual of the BHCPF indicates that EMT carries 2.5 per cent of the total funding for BHCPF annually.
The Federal Ministry of Health had on February 5 inaugurated the EMT Committee and National Emergency Medical Services and Ambulance Scheme (NEMSAS).
EMT is domiciled in the Department of Hospital Services of the ministry.
The routes designated for this project are Abuja-Lokoja, Lagos-Ibadan, Doka-Kaduna, Onitsha-Akwa, Lagos-Ore and Abeokuta-Lagos highways.
However, a three-week survey of Abuja-Kaduna, Abuja-Lokoja and Lagos-Ibadan roads did not reveal a single ambulance of the federal government.
Thousands of lives have been reported lost on these roads through motor accidents. It is believed that some of the fatalities would have been averted had ambulance been available to take the victims promptly to hospitals.
Despite the high rate of accidents on the roads, private cars and vans continued to be used to transport accident victims to the hospital.
The BHCPF is the fundamental healthcare funding provided by the National Health Act. It was included in the national budget for the first time in 2018 since the Act was signed in 2014.
It provides for not less than one per cent of the Consolidated Revenue for healthcare funding.
CSOs calls for action
The coordinator, Community Health and Research Initiative (CHR), Aminu Magashi, had earlier raised concerns over the non-implementation of the ambulance services on the highways months after the BHCPF disbursed N327 million to the Federal Ministry of Health for the programme.
Mr Magashi said the EMT got N327 million from the May disbursement of the BHCPF, to be used as start-up for the services.
"The money is available, the operational manual is available since the discussion on the matter has commenced. We need to see ambulances on the six identified highways.
"We also need to see the ambulances responding to patients and referring them to the nearby identified facilities."
The Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Health, Abdulaziz Mashi, was not specific on why the ambulances were yet to be deployed.
He said the ministry had put in place the "bureaucratic frameworks" for effective take-off of the EMT programme.
He gave assurances that the programme will soon begin to safe the lives of victims of automobile accidents on the highways.
"The emergency fund is a five per cent of the Basic Health Care Provision Fund which was further subdivided into 2.5 per cent to the Department of Hospital Services of the ministry and the remaining 2.5 per cent went to NCDC.
"We are still coming up with an emergency management committee to ensure that we block all the leakages and get it right before we take-off. Just a little more patience, I know we will be there," he said.