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Aging Alberta ambulances to support healthcare in developing countries

A number of aging ambulances in Alberta will soon see new life in some of the world's poorest countries. Albert Delitala has the details.

Five decommissioned Alberta ambulances are headed to some of the world’s poorest countries to help alleviate critical shortcomings in their healthcare systems.

The Riverview Rotary Club is retrofitting the ambulances, all of which were donated by Alberta Health Services (AHS).

One ambulance is set to begin its journey to Belize in the next few days. After an initial road trip to Montana, the U.S. Air Force is set to fly it the rest of the way to Belize as part of a humanitarian effort.

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“These things save lives,” said Roman Bayrock, a chiropractor and Rotary member. “We were told many, many times that pregnant mothers are literally put in the back of pickup trucks and taken to the hospital — and many die.”

The destinations for the other ambulances remain to be determined, but Bayrock said more will likely head to Belize as well as Mexico, Ghana and Uganda.

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Isaac Sempala and his wife, who is a member of parliament in Uganda, plan to transport an ambulance to its capitol city, Kampala, where it will service as a mobile clinic.

“It’s one part of the solution,” Sempala said. “Of course this is not enough, but you can’t get everything.”

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The Riverview Rotary Club has previously delivered seven ambulances to developing countries, including three to Belize. The remaining ambulances still need to be equipped with items such as oxygen tanks, defibrillators, syringes and bandages. It costs between $10,000 to $15,000 to retrofit each ambulance.

“We can always use more funds, so we’re constantly fundraising to try and not just transport the ambulances but equip them properly for good use,” Bayrock said.

The five AHS-donated ambulances have clocked about 240,000 km each and are model years 2011 and 2012.

Alberta Honda, located in north Edmonton, has provided storage and servicing for the aging ambulances for about four years.

“We don’t realize how fortunate we are here in Canada,” said Alex Yachimec, a sales manager at the dealership. “Where we’re sending these — I mean, they use pickup trucks [as ambulances] … they don’t have the technology to even help keep people alive.”
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