Can Village Ambulances help to deliver palliative care?

Categories: Care.

The concept of Pulse Village Ambulances is a simple one. They are two-wheeled ambulance trailers that can be easily connected to virtually any bicycle or motorcycle. When a patient needs to be moved, the Village Ambulances offer a safe alternative to the precarious boda-boda (motorcycle) ride that would traditionally be used to transport many Ugandans, or worse, being left at home to suffer rather than seeking the help the patient needs.

The Managing Director of Pulse Village Ambulances is Dustin McBride, an American with European ancestry who now calls Africa his home. Stood over one of his ambulances it immediately becomes apparent that he has pride in not only the product that he has helped produce but also the impact it is already having on patients across Uganda.

McBride estimates that providing one of their Village Ambulances equates to one life saved every two weeks. Put another way, this is 26 lives saved every year after deploying just one of their ambulances. With over 200 Village Ambulances distributed in over 23 districts across Uganda it doesn’t take a mathematician to work out that this equates to over 5,000 lives saved every year thanks to their innovation.

Part of this success is explained through the affordability of their ambulances. Although they work best behind boda-bodas (who traditionally offer cheap transport to patients across Uganda) they work just as well being pulled by conventional bicycles. Although motorised transport is not always available in rural Uganda it is rare to pass a community without access to bicycles.

The Village Ambulances are also not only a more comfortable alternative to wheelbarrows or stretchers but they also offer the patient much more dignity. McBride comments on this saying, “At the heart of Pulse is the patient, if we can help offer them dignity as well as a life-saving innovation then we are happy”.

And it is not just McBride who is extolling the virtues of the Village Ambulances. Teddy Ojambo from Mukono District in Uganda commented:

“Before, you would have to look for a motorcycle which is hard. If you’re lucky enough to get one, you’d get treatment. If you were unlucky, you would have to stay home and suffer in pain. Today, things are much easier with the bicycle ambulance!” 

Indeed, it was the issue of patients suffering pain that bought McBride to the African Palliative Care Association.  Pulse already have a partnership with Kyetume Hospital in Uganda where many of the patients are receiving palliative care. But McBride sees even more potential for his Village Ambulances in supporting the roll out of palliative care not just in Uganda but across Africa as a whole.

“We have already seen how the ambulances have helped in the process of palliative care service provision” he said. “We are looking to reach out and work with more partners in the palliative care field so we can reach more patients. Ultimately the well-being and dignity of the patient is why we are we are all here. We are confident that we can help palliative care organisations help provide this”.

The village Ambulances are designed to reach the hardest to reach places. Where home based care is no longer possible or when the patient simply has to be moved, the Pulse Village Ambulances offers the potential for this to be done simply, comfortably and crucially in accordance with the patient’s dignity.

For more information on Pulse Village Ambulances:

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