By a GNA Reporter (Elsie Appiah-Osei)
Accra, July 31, GNA - St John Ambulance Ghana (SJAG) has officially marked its 81st anniversary and robust emergency service provision to Ghanaians.
Established by the British Police Force to begin emergency medical services in Ghana in 1937, the SJAG has worked in close collaboration with the Ghana Police Service since its inception and has continued to work with them even after Ghana’s Independence in 1957.
The Ghana Police Service has also continued to offer paramilitary training to staff and volunteers to make them smart and disciplined. The Ministry of Health (MOH) took over the institution from the Ghana Police Service, so it now operates under the subvention of MOH as an Emergency Medical Service (EMS) provider in the area of first aid services, ambulance services and community health volunteerism and youth development, as mandated by an Act of Parliament, Act 57 of 1959.
St John is present in all 10 regions of the country and about 3,500 volunteers, who assist in the operations of the agency. The volunteers are in various professions such as medicine, environmental management, transportation, sports, law, general business and other areas nationwide.
The annual programme of work of SJAG forms part of the Programme of Work of the MOH in general, in achieving health for all.
Under the Ghana Police Service, SJAG continued to operate ambulance services after independence. The provision of ambulances for the service now has not been regular.
After the stadium disaster in 2001, the government decided to establish the National Ambulance Service with wide coverage area to concentrate on road traffic accidents, disasters, inter-hospital transfers among others.
With the challenges of no functioning ambulance, the agency still runs ambulance services by renting ambulances for standby duties, corporate event and health works among others.
The contribution of SJAG in relation to national development can be seen from the meritorious services it renders to institutions, corporate bodies and the general public vis -à- vis first aid training, first aid cover at various stadia and national events.
The SJAG has provided essential first aid services to the public across the country.it continues to perform stadium duties in all the stadia across the country, as well as functions held by corporate and religious organisations.
Notable among other emergency service rendered was one during the unfortunate collapse of the Melcom supermarket at Achimota, a suburb of Accra in November 2012.
The SJAG is the only first aid organization mandated by the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority to offer first aid in the aviation industry in Ghana and has done that remarkably well over the years, in addition to the first aid training at the mines in the country.
Over the years, the SJAG has paid particular attention to the youth who form the core of its volunteer’s base. First aid trainings are given to them periodically; and skill acquisition platforms have been created over them. Over 10,000 school children from second cycle institutions have been given free training nationwide for the past 10 years alone. In addition, they are taught the spirit of volunteerism and form school clubs to learn first aid.
In spite of the crucial role played by this service, the SJAG is faced with a myriad of challenges. In an interview with its Chief Executive Office, Dr. Kwame Apedzi, it was revealed that there was no funding from the Ministry of Health to the SJAG as a subvented organisation.
He also noted that there were no ambulances, in addition to inadequate training equipment. Dr. Apedzi made it clear that it had become needful for the MOH to establish the Ambulance Council per Act 829 of 2011 which seeks to regulate all Emergency Medical Services (EMS) providers and practitioners in the country thereby bringing about harmonization and standardization.
A major fallout from recent prominent deaths and the brouhaha over ‘no ambulance’ in almost all these cases ought to prick our conscience as a nation and prop us unto the path of redemption; else the invaluable services from an indispensable institution such as the SJAG stands vitiated.
“We appeal to the government, donors and philanthropic organisations to resource all organisations providing Emergency Medical Services in Ghana to enable us perform well according to our mandate” he stated.
They cannot be asking for too much. Are they?