New Coast Guard Medivac vessel arrives
The SVG 05 Balliceaux, the newest addition to the fleet of boats operated by the Royal St Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force Coast Guard Service (RSVGCG) will be stationed on the southern Grenadine island of Canouan and will be used mainly for medical evacuations (medivac).
The vessel was officially handed over to the RSVGCG yesterday during a ceremony at the Coast Guard Base in Calliaqua.
Coast Guard Commander Brenton Cain, during his address, said the vessels currently used by the coastguard for medivac are not the best for that purpose so they welcome the addition of the SVG 05 Balliceaux.
He said the boat became a reality after they informed the ministry of national security about the problems they were facing with the vessels they were using.
“The government did not hesitate to support the idea and this is the reality,” Commander Cain said.
He explained that after the handing over ceremony, there will be active training of crew members, the commissioning of the vessel into the fleet and operational deployment.
Training is in three phases: online and assessment training (currently ongoing), vessel familiarization and on the job training and support.
Commander Cain said that the COVID-19 pandemic caused them not to be in phase two of the training. He said the trainer was currently on quarantine, adhering to local coronavirus protocols and will begin his sessions next week.
The commander noted that once the training is finished and persons are certified, the boat will be placed in operation, specifically for medivac, but will be deployed on other missions as the need arises.
The new vessel is also fitted with top of the line firefighting equipment that can be used for ships on fire at sea and buildings close to the sea.
Commander Cain said also that on Wednesday night, a medivac from Bequia was done, bringing the number of medivac operations to 74 for the year. Only one of those was on the mainland where a patient was moved from Richmond to the medical facility in Chateaubelair.
Commissioner of Police (COP) Collin John said while we are blessed to be a multi-island state, it also presents some challenges.
“From time to time we have to traverse the sea and evacuate persons who have immediate medical concerns from the Grenadines to the mainland…hence it is essential that we are equipped,” said the top cop.
He noted that while there are medical facilities throughout the country, not every facility has the capacity to deal with every situation and sometimes transfers have to be made.
“The vessels that we use to embark on those duties…are not always appropriate,” said John while noting that the new vessel now ensures that citizens are taken care of.
He said the 74 medivac missions involved 84 patients: 50 males and 34 females. Fifty-two per cent of the evacuations came from Bequia, 22 per cent from Canouan, 19 per cent from Union and the rest between Mayreau and mainland.
“This facility that we have in place now would significantly enhance the comfort and the effectiveness of evacuating persons from the Grenadines,” said the Commissioner who noted that there are stories about patients and medical officials who were traumatized and discomforted when being transported by the vessels used prior to this.
“Hence there is no question that there is a need for this,” said John who added that an inappropriate vessel could do more harm than good.
The SVG 05 Balliceaux was supplied by the Damen Shipyards Group of Gorinchem, South Holland, the Netherlands.
Medical Officer of Health Dr Roger Duncan expressed his delight with the new vessel.
“This is something that we have been having conversations about for quite a long time,” said Duncan who referred to the Balliceaux as a sea ambulance.
He noted that despite the difficult conditions that persons have been evacuated under, they have always arrived safely, with no loss of life.
The senior health official said there have sometimes been complaints about the number of medivacs requested, but the introduction of the new vessel does not mean the demand is going to rise.
“…in the next budget, we have submitted on the capital side, a request for the acquisition of what we call point of care testing equipment,” said Duncan who explained that the equipment will help health professionals differentiate between who is having a heart attack and who is not.
He said this would reduce the frequency of evacuations.
Additionally, there is also the intention to establish radiology services on Bequia and Union Island so that basic X-rays and ultra-sounds can be done there.