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KEMH ambulance fleet hit with breakdowns

The hospital's fleet of top-of-the-range ambulances is being scrapped after just four years of service because of continual mechanical faults.

And the Bermuda Hospitals Board has been forced to use a spare emergency vehicle provided by the St John's Ambulance charity in a bid to keep 911 services running.

BHB bought four new ambulances in September 2009 at a cost of more than $400,000. At the time, hospital chiefs heralded the acquisition as “a continuing investment” in the emergency services.

The ambulances were handpicked to handle Bermuda's roads and have improved suspension, performance and the latest medical equipment and safety features.

“We have selected ambulances that pack in the latest technology and design, while maintaining a small size to navigate Bermuda's narrow roads,” head Emergency Medical Technician Raymond Santucci said during the fleet's launch.

But a BHB hospital spokesman has now confirmed that, although emergency vehicles are expected to remain in service for eight years, the current fleet was being replaced after only half that time because of a “high level of maintenance servicing” which was “symptomatic of problematic vehicles”.

The spokesman added that mechanical failures were made worse by the fact that it can take months for replacement parts to be delivered to the Island.

Earlier this week, The Royal Gazette received reports that two of the four ambulances were out of commission.

Yesterday, the spokesman confirmed that one vehicle is currently off the road, but could not say how many hours had been lost in total because of breakdowns.

“The ambulances have needed more and more general maintenance,” the spokesman said.

“This means they might not be out for very long, but are needing more day-to-day attention, and occasionally they are out for short periods of time.

“Historically, ambulance fleets should last eight years. Bermuda's roads and environment are particularly challenging, but the need for excessive maintenance is also symptomatic of problematic vehicles.

“Unfortunately, when major work is required it can take some months for parts and labour. However, an intensive maintenance schedule for the ambulances has been established.”

The spokesman stressed that services had not been affected by the mechanical failures but the BHB had had to borrow a backup vehicle from St John's Ambulance.

“We are working closely with our emergency response partners to ensure a seamless service,” the spokesman said.

“St John's Ambulance graciously lent BHB one of their vehicles for use to ensure Bermuda's emergency service is maintained. To date there has been no impact on our emergency service, and at this time one of our fleet is undergoing maintenance.

“We are grateful for the partnership with St John's Ambulance and the ongoing support of the other emergency service providers, such as the police and fire service, who also have trained first responders.”

The Request for Proposal deadline for a replacement fleet is at the end of this week.

“An international tender for new vehicles just closed and vehicle quality and support in addition to price will be key evaluation factors,” the spokesman said.

Emergency vehicles: The Bermuda Hospitals Board's fleet for ambulances needs to be replaced after just four years because of continual mechanical faults.

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Published October 25, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated October 25, 2013 at 10:13 am)

KEMH ambulance fleet hit with breakdowns

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