Ria Formosa ambulance boat service continues with council funding
An ambulance boat serving the island communities of the Ria Formosa has another year's funding with Faro and Olhão councils joining the Emergency Ambulance Service and the Maritime Authority to ensure continuity.
The vessel, built and paid for by Faro council in 2007, has cost between €150,000 and €300,000 to date but, due to a dispute over operational funding, sat doing nothing for its first six years.
Olhão mayor, António Pina and Faro’s Rogério Bacalhau now have signed a protocol pledging €7,000-a-year from each council to keep the service running smoothly.
The four entities involved are contributing to the “sustainability, maintenance and operability” of the boat-ambulance that serves the diminishing number of inhabitants on the islands of Fuseta, Armona and Culatra.
The ‘Ria Solidária’ has been making about 180 trips a year transporting the sick and those with reduced mobility, to the mainland.
During the signing ceremony at the lifeboat station in Olhão, António Pina mentioned the importance of the service that costs €21,000-a-year, but warned also of the need for the islanders to be better covered in terms of health and safety support.
“Armona island, for example, welcomes thousands of people each day in the summer. We have been fortunate that serious situations have not occurred, but I would like to stress that emergency assistance to the islands has not been sufficiently taken care of,” said Pina, calling for more support for residents and visitors.
In September 2013, Culatra islanders took medical matters into their own hands and, in just two days, built a helipad to aid air rescue for any urgent cases that could arise during poor weather – when rescue by sea is impractical, dangerous and could take up to an hour.
In April 2014, as the ambulance boat sat in Faro docks, the first emergency medical flight landed on the new Culatra helipad to transport a woman with serious heart problems to Faro hospital. The helicopter took just seven minutes to respond.
The head of the Culatra Residents’ Association, Silvia Padinha, said at the time that the emergency flight was only made possible thanks to the initiative of the community which had built its own helicopter landing platform despite having no permission and in a move that environmentalists considered illegal.
Now the ambulance boat has maintenance and operational funding, any emergency medical incidents on the Ria Formosa islands can be dealt with swiftly by water or, in bad weather, by air.
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