I sat in a small conference room at Amana Regional Hospital with about 20 ambulance drivers. These men wake up every morning not knowing what emergency case(s) they will deal with that day.
"It can be an accident victim, a heart patient, someone infected with cholera, patients who have had surgery, and of course pregnant women or those who have just given birth, or newborn babies...we just have to be ready for any case", explains Shukuru Hussein. Out of curiosity I asked Hussein for how long he has been driving ambulances
for the best part of your life...about thirty years now!
This is not an easy job and for someone to stick with for so long, it means one is totally committed to the cause. Ambulance drivers, however need all the support they can get from the community, from health workers, corporates and traffic police.
I appreciate being invited to this training I am learning many things, and others are important reminders to us on how we to efficiently transport pregnant women and babies.
For two days Comprehensive Community Based Rehabilitation (CCBRT) and the Regional Health Management Team (RHMT) have engaged ambulance drivers in a workshop as part of efforts to curb high maternal and newborn mortality rates in Dar es Salaam.
By strengthening their role in the continuum of care in maternal and newborn care, the initiatives helps reinforcing a functioning referral system and therefore generally improve the quality of care in times of emergency. The training is also part of the implementation of 'Makin Motherhood Safe in Tanzania Program' managed by CCBRT.
A total of 40 ambulance drivers working for hospitals and health facilities in the Municipalities of Ilala, Temeke, and Kinondoni have been equipped with necessary knowledge in order to make the emergency referral transport system in Dar es Salaam more efficient, effective and reliable.
An ambulance is more than just a means of transportation from point A to point B, that is why sessions had specially tailored content for the drivers, including:
- Standard Operating Procedures for Transporting Emergency Cases
- Recording and reporting
- Dealing with health facilities, providers and patients
- Basic First Aid: dos and don’ts
- Infection prevention including cleaning and decontaminating the vehicle
- Road safety, Customer Service and Professionalism
- Essentials knowledge Maternal and Newborn Emergency Transportation
Because saving the lives of Tanzanian mothers and babies is everyone’s responsibility, in order to achieve this, a multi-sectoral effort is needed with the Region’s departments of health, roads and police forces working together to solve (infra)-structure problems.
With an effective emergency transport system Tanzania can minimize avoidable factors contributing to maternal and newborn mortality and morbidity that stands at 410 deaths of mothers per 100,000 live births and 45 deaths of babies per 1000 live births in (UN Report 2013).
At the workshop the police force was represented by Inspector Yohana Mjema who directly responded to Hussein’s plea and proposed many more ideas to strengthen collaboration between the drivers and traffic police.
Use the control room telephone numbers I have given you so that the roads are immediately cleared for you when you need.
Experts emphasize that an informed community is a crucial component in the quest to save mothers and babies because delays in seeking care can happen in the community, if people are unaware of danger signs during pregnancy and after delivery.
Therefore, "pregnant women and their partners as well as families should visit health facilities early during pregnancy and learn when to seek help from qualified health providers. Emergency and birth preparedness includes to keep some funds for transporting pregnant women to a health facility immediately and at an early stage", elaborated Petri Blinkhoff of CCBRT.
Also part of the responsibilities of the community, is giving way to ambulances whenever they see them or hear their sirens. People should encourage one another to spread information that ambulances carry patients being treated, most likely someone fighting for his/her life or the life of a vulnerable newborn.
Speakers during the training included health professionals from CCBRT and RHMT and Traffic Police Inspectors, who emphasized the importance of drivers to clearly understand the operating rules in place that can guide them while on duty, in order to ensure their safety and the safety of the patients, while not endangering other road users.
This initiative as part of CCBRT’s efforts to strengthen comprehensive maternal and newborn healthcare in the Dar es Salaam Region, was undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada provided through Global Affairs Canada (GAC).