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Sark's car-free status disrupts ambulance plans

Sark's car-free status disrupts ambulance plans

Thursday 27 January 2022

Sark's car-free status disrupts ambulance plans

Thursday 27 January 2022


Sark's Medical and Emergency Services Committee is reassuring residents and visitors that the island's two ambulances remain in service while revised plans are drawn up to replace them following the recent rejection of ambulances offered from Guernsey.

The plans to take ambulances from Guernsey were scrapped when the vehicles were found to be unsuitable for Sark's needs.

The island was offered two ambulances by St. John Ambulance in Guernsey. They were no longer needed in Guernsey as St. John is upgrading its fleet of vehicles. But they were thought to be suitable for Sark, which has a population size around 1% of Guernsey's. 

However, when an engineer based in Sark inspected the vehicles he found they could not be converted to be towed by tractor as Sark's ambulances are at the present time.

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Pictured: While Sark's Avenue is accessible, other parts of the island, including the steep Harbour Hill, are less accessible, meaning the island's ambulances have to be towed by tractors to get around.

Sark's Medical and Emergency Services Committee said the island is always appreciative of its relationship with St. John and the support it receives from the organisation. They are continuing to work together to find a suitable solution.

"The Committee worked with St. John in Guernsey, who had offered two ambulance vehicles to Sark," it said.

"These vehicles were inspected by one of our engineers in Guernsey at St. John. They are basically converted vans and do not have the correct configuration to allow for conversion to Sark's requirements."

Express asked why the proposed ambulances could not be converted for use in Sark but did not receive an explanation. It is thought the vehicles would have retained their own engines, which would have made them illegal in Sark, and in addition there may have been no-one with the correct licence to drive them.

The Committee said: "Sark law does not allow for any vehicles other than tractors to be driven on our roads without major changes to the law, which would probably prove extremely controversial, and could take some time. Therefore, the vehicles would have to be converted.

"There is also the issue of driving licences. Guernsey licences are not valid in Sark. Therefore, new legislation would need to be enacted and testing criteria developed."

The situation regarding the unsuitable ambulances has sparked growing concern in Sark.

While the Medical and Emergency Services Committee insist the two ambulances currently in the island remain in service and that plans are being worked up to replace them, many residents have queried why the two proposed by St. John were deemed unsuitable.

One woman calling for answers is Sarah Beaumont. Speaking to Express as an independent resident, Mrs Beaumont said she asked the Medical and Emergency Services Committee a number of questions relating to the ambulances but said she had not received any answers. 

Mrs Beaumont said she asked what criteria were used to assess the suitability of the ambulances for Sark and who carried out the feasibility study. She said that initially she received no response at all and then a statement was issued by Chief Pleas - the island's government - which she said still failed to answer her questions. She has now asked her questions again and said she awaits answers. 

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Above: Sark's Medical and Emergency Services Committee issued this statement and said it is still working on plans to replace the island's two ambulances.

Mrs Beaumont believes that an offer was made by Sark Shipping to transport one of the proposed new ambulances to Sark to allow it to be tested on the island's roads but that offer was not taken up. She understands that Sark responded to Guernsey's offer after a deadline set for a reply and after the ambulances in question had been sent to the UK to be redeployed.

Mrs Beaumont thinks Sark's 2013 law regarding the use of motor vehicles could be easily modified to include the use of ambulances and she is very disappointed that the reasons the proposed new ambulances were not suitable for Sark have not been explained to her satisfaction. 

"There should be a proper feasibility study. If there was and they genuinely found that they were not suitable for Sark then fair enough. But we just don't know the reasons why," she said.

Sark's Medical and Emergency Committee said it remains in close contact with St. John and "future plans to upgrade our ambulances are currently being finalised with a five- and ten-year schedule for improvement."

Pictured top: One of Sark's ambulances. Image from sark.co.uk.

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