Uganda Red Cross Society has commissioned a training school for first aid and emergency response, an emergency call and dispatch centre, and a commercial ambulance service.
The function was at URCS headquarters in Lubaga, Kampala on December 9. The training school for first aiders and rapid emergency responders has training manuals, training equipment and an in-house necessities shop, among other facilities. It trains and certifies trainees in different levels of first aid.
The school can admit only 25 people at a go, but URCS has plans to build a larger school at Namakwa, Mukono district. It has separate packages for individual training and family training.
Meanwhile, URCS secretary general Robert Kwesiga explained that the commercial ambulance service is intended to enable the humanitarian organisation expand and sustain its operations.
The commercial ambulance service will not replace the free ambulance services that URCS has been known for many years. Rather, the commercial service will be for those who can afford to pay, and will definitely demand for it. To avoid confusion in the perception of the public, Kwesiga said, the commercial ambulances have been branded differently.
“We have been doing first aid and ambulance services, but we are taking it to a new level. We want to upscale [them] and do [them] better,” he said, adding, “In the last five years, we have been in a recovery phase. We had destroyed ourselves. We have now successfully gone through this. But we need money to continue on that trajectory. So, we have to make use of the services we have been giving, but we are not compromising our humanitarian and voluntary mandate.”
Even the flagship free first aid will continue, but there are people or organisations which need first aid but should not get it for free, he explained.
The commercial ambulances are all standard class B and new. They may be rented or hired for emergencies and public events. As was demonstrated, the class B ambulance has storage space for a number of necessary advanced emergency equipment, such as an oxygen cylinder and an air conditioning unit, among others.
FLEET OF 25 AMBULANCES
After reporting that URCS has a fleet of 25 ambulances, 19 of which were bought using money provided by government through the ministry of Health, he said those for commercial service were bought using money from donors such as the Japanese Red Cross Society and other sources. He added that they are fundraising to increase the number of both categories of ambulances.
FOUR REGIONAL TRAINING CENTRES
Kwesiga disclosed that the society has also set up four regional training centres.
“First aid has always been our flagship programme; we are working to turn it into our flagship resource mobilization tool because the demand is very high.”
Dr John Baptist Wanaiye, the commissioner for Emergency Medical Services at the ministry of Health, represented minister of Health Dr Ruth Jane Aceng as the chief guest.
Dr Halid Kirunda, chairman of URCS Central Governing Board, said the society had worked hard to ensure that every black spot on Uganda’s road network has a Red Cross first aid team nearby.
He reported that the call and dispatch centre at the headquarters works all 24 hours of the day, all days of the week; staff in the control room and the ambulances work in shifts.
Kirunda complained about the current vice of selling blood in health facilities yet the blood is donated free-of-charge. He warned that soon it will be difficult to convince people to donate blood; he asked the ministry of Health to address the vice in all their facilities.
Joan Kataike Okello, the day’s mistress of ceremonies, said URCS has 51 branches countrywide where first aid trainers are stationed. So, she urged all who need the training to approach those branches and get trained and certified.
The function also included a demonstration of first aid and evacuation of an accident victim; it showed that first aid requires expertise and resources.