Opinions Mon, 20 Aug 2018

The ambulance versus the hearse

In a recent family funeral meeting, the question was asked by my uncle, a medical doctor and the chairman of the funeral committee. - “Who will be responsible for the ambulance. What about the ambulance that transported her to the hospital when she was sick?” All present at the meeting stirred at me, because I work for a transport and logistics company.

My uncle directly assigned me to be in charge of the ambulance to convey my late cousins’ body from the morgue to the church and to the cemetery. I then responded gently to my uncle “I did arrange for an ambulance when my cousin was very ill and now that she is no more, I can’t arrange for the same ambulance to pick her remains.”

My uncle then smiled and said to me, “Papa, you tricked me, but I got you” Many people are committed to such errors by calling a hearse as an ambulance because many can't tell the difference.

A hearse is a vehicle used as transport for the dead in a coffin or casket to the cemetery, whilst an ambulance is a vehicle equipped for transporting the sick or injured person to and from the hospital especially in emergencies. As far as my mind's eyes can see, the number of hearses in Ghana is more than the 54 ambulances that is owned by the government of Ghana and managed by the National Ambulance Services. Sadly, many sick people are transported in taxis and private vehicles, making the route to the hospital much more dangerous.

You have probably seen several hearses in every town in Ghana, than an ambulance because in Ghana we cherish the dead. We do have big funerals and rent the most expensive hearse for the dead. Most of such expensive limousine hearse are painted black and symbolizes solemnity of mourning. Well-wishers and sympathizers will congratulate the family members for given a befitting funeral to their deceased because they hired the best of hearse. My question now is simple. When family and friends are sick, how many of us contributed to pay for their medical expenses? When the sick is no more in existence, we rather plan to hire the most expensive hearse for the funeral.

When you import an ambulance with all the equipment to save lives, you must be prepared to compulsorily pay huge amount of cash on import duties and taxes. Why is it so? 90 percent of ambulances imported to the country are used to transport the dead. Hearse owners are making a lot of profit because there are many more funerals that begins from Wednesdays to Saturdays. With a minimum amount of 600 cedis per funeral for hiring a hearse, owners are assured of their cool gross profit of about 3,000 cedis a week.

Should the hearse continue to use the same siren with an ambulance. Why must you give way to the dead when you are caught up in traffic? Is the dead man important than the living? Can we have a common law to paint all hearse one particular colour (eg. black)? Can we enforce the laws to stop the hearse from using a siren? Can we stop the importation of ambulances to be used as hearse? Can we have a tax free import duties on ambulances? Ghana must work again

Columnist: Cecil Ebow Garbrah