Thursday, 28 April 2016

Interesting article on the many issues with The Lagos State Ambulance Service (LASAMBUS)

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The Lagos State Ambulance Service (LASAMBUS) is no longer meeting its objective of providing pre-hospital care services in case of medical emergencies on the state highways, Eko Trust investigations have revealed.

The LASAMBUS mobile health care service was launched in 2001 to address the need for strengthening the inherited hospital-based medical care in the state. At the launch of the service, an innovation in the state then, the government said it embarked on the project as a result of the increasing urbanisation and industrialisation of Lagos State which in turn led to an appreciable increase in the number of road traffic, industrial and marine accidents as well as other medical emergencies in the state.

The LASAMBUS project was designed to run on a 24-hour, 7-day-a-week basis. It was launched alongside the Lagos State Emergency Medical Service (LASEMS). About 25 LASAMBUS operational points were also identified and equipped throughout the state to improve on all aspects of medical emergencies including home/road traffic/industrial accidents; as well as to provide the residents easy access to government medical services.

The project, at the initial stage, proved a success as many lives were saved through the services provided by LASAMBUS and its personnel. Statistics from the Lagos State Ministry of Health showed that the ambulances, equipped with necessary medical emergency gadgets, rendered critical services to 11,449 victims of road traffic accidents, collapsed buildings, gunshots, industrial accidents and several other cases requiring hospital and medical attention in 2009 alone.

But that was then. Now, the LASAMBUS project seems to be moribund. Checks showed that the LASAMBUS points across the state have become idle as only a few of the points presently have the necessary facilities needed to carry out emergency medical services. Fewer of these points have standby ambulances.

Initially, there were only 15 LASAMBUS points in the state but incumbent Governor Akinwunmi Ambode announced the creation of additional 10 operational points in October 2015 to make the service effective. Many of these LASAMBUS points spanning all the local government area are now either being occupied by miscreants and hawkers or being used as resting points by commuters and pedestrians, with no government (LASAMBUS) official manning the points.

Virtually all the LASAMBUS points visited by our correspondent shared the same fate. The points at Mile 12, Bonny Camp (Victoria Island), Ikeja, Abule-Egba, Anthony, Third Mainland Bridge, Lagos-Ibadan Expressway Tollgate, Gbagada, Bolade (Osodi), Mile 2 and Costain presently have no dedicated ambulances.

Recently, a serious car crash occurred on the Third Mainland Bridge, just a few metres away from the LASAMBUS point on the bridge. However, because there was no standby ambulance and staff at the point, the victims were left on the accident spot for a relatively long time, until they were conveyed to the hospital by other motorists and good Samaritans plying the bridge.

Efforts by Eko Trust to speak with LASAMBUS key officials at the agency's headquarters at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) in Ikeja, on the present status of the service across the state, were futile as the officials hid under the cloak of being civil servants, saying that they were not allowed to talk tothe press. Our correspondent was told that only the Ministry of Information could speak on the agency's services, while official of the ministry were also not available to speak on the issues.

However, some LASAMBUS workers who spoke to Eko Trust under the condition of anonymity, alleged administrative hiccups and poor staff welfare as major reasons why the service is presently not running the way it ought to. According to one of the workers, the ambulances that are available are no longer supplied fuel like before; thus, the drivers chose to remain at base one - the headquarters at LASUTH, rather than their dedicated points.

"Also, the ambulances are not mobilised to move from base one nowadays, until we are notified of an emergency, from where the ambulance will now move from here to the emergency point, anywhere in Lagos," he said.

Another worker said: "Many things happening inside LASEMS and LASAMBUS today boil down to poor administration. It is so sad that it is Lagosians who are suffering this as the emergency medical care needed to be provided by the service is no longer provided."

He explained that complaints of neglect by the ambulance crew, especially the nurses, which are not addressed by the authorities, are also a major reason why the service is dying.

One of the LASAMBUS nurses also told our correspondent that many of the LASAMBUS points are in places that are inhabitable and unsafe, thus putting the workers at risk if they must remain at the points on a daily basis.

"Most of the points are located in very risky locations. For instance, whenever I was at the one at the Toll Gate or Third Mainland Bridge, I was always fearful until we left there. There was a time a driver that lost control of his vehicle almost ran into us. Most of the points are located in the middle of the road and you know Lagos motorists, especially commercial bus drivers, are reckless. Nobody wants to die. We made all these complaints to our bosses at the office but nothing was done," she said.

She also complained of lack of facilities such as tables and chairs to make the work easier for the crew.

"All we do is to simply sit or lie down in the ambulance praying for when we will roll out. This is not good enough," she said.

A medical doctor, Dr. Ademola Babajide, however said that the government knew what to do to strengthen the LASAMBUS service, "but they just wouldn't do it because of negligence and lack of commitment."

According to him, operating a service like LASAMBUS to save lives should not come at the expense of the welfare or lives of the health workers.

But as the service remains comatose, a LASAMBUS official at the agency's headquarters urged our correspondent to help appeal to Lagosians to dial 112 or 767 on their phones anytime they have or observe a medical emergency. "When you do that, the ambulance at the closest base will turn up. This is better than you relying on having a standby ambulance at the LASAMBUS point," he said.

Source: Daily Trust newspaper