Govt Flies In Personnel To Launch ED’s Unserviced Russian Helicopters
3 December 2023
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Delay in Deployment of Russian-Donated Helicopters Raises Concerns Amid Plans for National Air Ambulance Service.

Russian helicopter

Harare- Apprehension is growing as it comes to light that disused helicopters donated by Russia remain idle due to servicing delays, posing a potential setback to Zimbabwe’s plans for a national air ambulance service. The helicopters, given for emergency air medical services and law enforcement, are in a dangerous state, awaiting service that is hindered by parts requiring imports from the United States.

Despite the impending arrival of Russian flight paramedic instructors set to train local air ambulance personnel, concerns arise over the usability of the helicopters in their current condition. The training, scheduled at Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals in Harare, aims to pave the way for the launch of Zimbabwe’s first national air ambulance service.

In May, Zimbabwe received 18 brand-new helicopters from Russia, with 12 earmarked for the national air ambulance service. An additional 14 helicopters are expected next year under a public-private sector partnership agreement between the Government and the Russian State Corporation.

Health and Child Care Permanent Secretary Dr. Aspect Maunganidze announced the imminent arrival of the Russian team, emphasizing the need for organized and efficient training. The government-funded air medical transport service aims to aid critically ill or injured individuals within the country’s borders.

Air ambulances, known for their rapid transport capabilities, become crucial in saving lives, especially in remote areas with limited access to ground ambulance services. The helicopters, Kazan Ansat, are equipped with advanced medical tools, including a ventilator, infusion pumps, a cardiac monitor, and a defibrillator.

In the midst of anticipation for Zimbabwe’s groundbreaking national air ambulance service, a note of caution emerges due to the revelation that the donated helicopters, critical components of this initiative, are yet to be serviced. While air ambulances, specifically the Kazan Ansat helicopters, are renowned for their life-saving capabilities, the current state of disuse and lack of servicing raises significant concerns.

Equipped with advanced medical tools such as ventilators, infusion pumps, cardiac monitors, and defibrillators, these helicopters hold immense potential to aid in emergency medical situations. Their rapid transport capabilities are particularly crucial in remote areas with limited access to ground ambulance services.

Plans to establish bases in strategic locations, including Victoria Falls, Mutare, Gweru, Bulawayo, and Masvingo, are underway. This thoughtful placement aims to optimize the reach of the helicopters, each boasting a flying range of approximately 350km.

Public health experts and community leaders commend the initiation of a national air ambulance service, recognizing it as a significant advancement in Zimbabwe’s healthcare landscape. Dr. Johannes Marisa underscores the potential impact during the upcoming festive season, a period notorious for increased road accidents, emphasizing the vital role air ambulances can play in saving lives.

However, amid the excitement, a critical concern surfaces – the helicopters remain unserviced. The inability to address this issue jeopardizes their functionality, rendering them ineffective in emergency situations. It is imperative to prioritize the servicing of these helicopters to ensure their readiness and reliability.

While government initiatives to modernize the healthcare system, including the procurement of fully kitted ambulances and collaborations for constructing health centers and district hospitals, showcase commitment, the focus must extend to the operational readiness of all resources, especially the air ambulances. Ensuring that these helicopters are promptly serviced is paramount to realizing the potential benefits of the national air ambulance service and safeguarding the lives of those in need. Excitement must be tempered with a cautious approach to address this critical servicing shortfall.- state media