The Ministry of Health and Wellness has spent over P71 million in outsourcing the services of air ambulance from private companies in the past five years. But this amount notwithstanding, government currently has no plans whatsoever to acquire air ambulance, but is instead strengthening ground ambulance capabilities.
Assistant Minister of Health and Wellness, Sethomo Lelatisitswe told Parliament this week that a total P71, 356, 550.00 was used in the past five years for air patients transport services. Lelatisitswe said that his ministry does not have plans to acquire air support services (helicopter) to assist EMS operations. Given financial and other operational resource-constraints, Lelatisitswe said his ministry relies on outsourcing air support services to the private emergency medical service providers as and when the need arises.
He said it is worth noting that the establishment of air support services is dependent on the strong and solid ground ambulance services. “Currently, our ground ambulance is still at infancy stage. Once this improves, the ministry will consider the cost-effectiveness of acquiring the air ambulance services,” the minister said. Lelatisitswe was answering a question from MP for Bobirwa, Taolo Lucas who had asked the minister to update the House on the geographic spread of the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) bases in the country and state if such bases are equitably spread out in the country and if not, what he intends to do to remedy the situation.
Lucas also wanted to know if there are any immediate plans to establish EMS bases in Ghanzi, Tsabong and Shakawe or if the Minister has any plans to acquire air supporting services (helicopter) to assist EMS operations to save lives and how much was incurred in the past five years in hiring air support service (helicopters) from private emergency medical service providers.
Lelatisitswe revealed that his ministry runs nine EMS bases in Gaborone, Lobatse, Mochudi, Mahalapye, Selebi Phikwe, Francistown, Kasane and Maun, which he admitted are not equitably spread out in the country. The minister said that except for Kasane and Maun, all other bases are along the eastern corridor, or in close proximity to the A1 Road as a function of the high number of motor vehicle crashes along the A1 road in the years prior to 2011.
To correct and promote wider access, the ministry is in the process of setting up and opening EMS bases in other places in Botswana. He said this will be done in phased approach owing to budgetary constraints. The minister said his ministry plans to establish an EMS base in Ghanzi in the financial year 2021/2022, but that is subject to availability of resources. The same applies to the establishment of EMS bases in Tsabong and Shakawe, which will be considered in the future owing to availability of resources.