KARACHI, Nov 2: Delivering eight ventilator-fitted ambulances to the medical superintendents of as many public hospitals across the province on Wednesday, Sindh health minister Dr Sagheer Ahmad said the vehicles must be used only for the intended purposes and not for family shopping.

Speaking at a ceremony held for the delivery of the ambulances, the minister said: “The heads of hospitals should know that despite constraints in the flow of finances, the ambulances equipped with ventilators and other monitors and patient supportive machines have finally been acquired by the health department.”

He further said as part of quality healthcare services to the people the ambulances were meant for emergency and critical handling of patients. “We have to ensure that people do not die at home due to unavailability of proper transport and they could be taken to the nearest health facility at the earliest,” the minister said.

The minister stressed that ambulances must not be used for administrative purposes or for personal use by hospital bosses. “I have reports that ambulances have been used for domestic purposes and even for the purchase of groceries and vegetables, which should be stopped now,” he said.

According to the additional secretary (development) of the health department, Dr Khalid Sheikh, the ambulances were readied at a cost of Rs6.4 million each and the money was earmarked for the purpose in the annual development programme in the budget of 2010-2011.

The medical superintendents of the Civil Hospital Karachi, the Lyari General Hospital Karachi, the Liaquat Medical University Hospital in Hyderabad, the People’s Medical Hospital in Nawabshah, the Chandka Medical College Hospital in Larkana, the Ghulam Mohammad Mahar Medical College Hospital in Sukkur, the Qatar Hospital at Orangi in Karachi and the Civil Hospital Mirpurkhas received the keys of the ambulances from the minister.According to a source, the ambulances had been gathering dust in the open at the I&I depot, near the JPMC, for about four months for want of a chief guest.

Later, talking to the media, Dr Ahmad said the health department would also devise a mechanism for monitoring and strengthening the public hospital ambulance services. At present it is expected that the medical superintendents would divert some of the resources at their disposal for smooth operation of the ventilator-fitted ambulances as well, while the health department would increase the recurring expenditures of the hospitals, the minister added.

The minister said 23 more such ambulances had been included in the ADP of 2011-12.

Responding to a question, Dr Ahmad said the new ambulances would be operational in a week after necessary training of the technicians and paramedics who would be on board the ambulances.

Health secretary Syed Hashim Raza Zaidi, Dr Khalid Sheikh and MNA Iqbal Qadri also spoke at the ceremony.