Personnel of the Sint Maarten Ambulance Department have successfully completed a five-day training course to familiarize themselves with the four (4) brand new ambulance vehicles that were delivered in late December 2022.
Conducted by ambulance manufacturer REV Group and Zoll, the training sessions focused on the use and maintenance of the ambulances and their operating systems. It also included a “train-the-trainer” component to enable local ambulance workers to provide these operational and maintenance training courses in the future.
At a combined cost of approximately US $1.2 million, the new ambulances were procured through the Sint Maarten Trust Fund, which is financed by the Government of the Netherlands, managed by the World Bank, and implemented by the National Recovery Program Bureau (NRPB) on behalf of the Government of Sint Maarten.
Since 2018, the Sint Maarten Trust Fund has invested in equipment for Sint Maarten’s firefighters and ambulance workers, as well as in repair work to the Philipsburg and Simpson Bay police stations and Fire and Ambulance building to fix damage caused by Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria. Together, these investments amount to some US $6.3 million.
The four new ambulances were custom designed to successfully operate in Sint Maarten’s tropical maritime climate and effortlessly traverse its mountainous topography. As such, the selected vehicle model was chosen for its narrow-body frame, efficient fuel consumption, and four-wheel drive capabilities, making the ambulances ideally suited to climb steep hills and maneuver on cramped, unpaved streets. Additionally, the chassis underbody has been coated to minimize corrosion from salt spray.
Most importantly, the ambulances come fully stocked with medical equipment and supplies to handle life-threatening emergencies. All four ambulances have been outfitted with defibrillators and automated cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) devices to assist patients in cardiac arrest, as well as vascular access kits and piped oxygen systems to support critical care en route to the Emergency Room (ER). The vehicles also have various onboard trauma kits to provide vital first response for serious injuries such as burns, motor vehicle accidents, and gunshot wounds, among others.
Before the new ambulances arrived, the Ambulance Department’s existing fleet comprised of four ambulances, all of which are nearing the end of their lifespan. Through the Trust Fund, the NRPB bought spare parts for the older vehicles to keep them operational during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Government of Sint Maarten is in the process of selecting two of the old ambulances for retirement. The other two will remain in use and will bolster the contingent of new ambulances, bringing the total number of working ambulances at the disposal of the Ambulance Department to six (6).
“As Government, we are dedicated to the forward motion of these projects that focus on building resilience for Sint Maarten. While the ambulances may have taken quite some time to get here, it’s good to see them here coupled with the expert training our frontliners have received. We are now better prepared to deal with disasters. The process of rolling this project is still in the works, but we are steadily on the way to ensuring that the entire sector is properly outfitted, the frontliners are trained, and their facilities and equipment adequately maintained to ensure continued progress,” said Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs.
Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labor (VSA) Omar Ottley said: “The enhancement of our public health has been and will remain a priority for me. I have heard the complaints of the community concerning the lack of ambulances and, as of today, this complaint should no longer be. We have also put out a tender for an in-house mechanic to ensure the maintenance of the ambulances. The safety of the workers and their ability to get to and from a scene have been a concern of the Ministry from the onset. I would like to thank everyone involved for making this possible, the ambulance staff, the Ministry of VSA and the NRPB.”
Ambulance Chief Cylred Richardson said that the Ambulance Department has made history by securing these four brand-new fully equipped ambulances, especially at a time when sourcing ambulances and its related equipment face numerous challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “We are proud of this much needed and important investment in the bolstering of emergency medical care and response on Sint Maarten. My team is anxious to serve the community of Sint Maarten in these state-of-the-art ambulances,” he said.
“Through the Trust Fund and on behalf of government, the NRPB continues to provide necessary equipment to support Sint Maarten’s first responders and build the country’s resilience to future natural disasters. I am glad to see these ambulances delivered to the men and women of the Ambulance Department, whose dedication and hard work has been exemplary and is a symbol of our innate resilience,” said NRPB Director Claret Connor.