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In a workshop in Gibraltar, ambulances are prepared for Congo’s virus response

Eyleen Gomez

As Covid-19 grips various sectors on the Rock, one company has 80 frontline workers operating 15 hours a day to help other countries in need.

Toyota Gibraltar Stockholdings and its staff recently converted Toyota Land Cruisers into ambulances for Kinshasa in the Republic of Congo.

The customer was Enabel, which is a Belgian NGO supported by the Government of Belgium, and the vehicles were transported via road to Brussels, where they will be air freighted to Kinshasa.

“They are donated by the Belgian Government. Enabel basically have the first four of an order that has come in for 42 ambulances,” said Ian Martinez, from Toyota Gibraltar Stockholdings.

The company prepared four ambulances in five days, with 50-60 hours of labour on each vehicle.

There are normally two workers on each vehicle who complete all tasks associated with the conversion.

The vehicles are procured by the company, taken to the workshop and the interior of the back of the 4x4 is stripped bare. This includes removing the seats, flooring and side panels.

A new easy wipe floor is installed, as are easy wipe panels on the door. A metal bracket which will accommodate a stretcher is also installed.

Depending on the client’s request, a glass panel in the newly installed partition between the front cabin and the rear of the ambulance can also be added, providing an extra layer of protection.

“It, [the virus], is not airborne anyway but we follow the WHO guidelines so we try and stay on top of it,” said Mr Martinez.

“The virus could mutate and become airborne so we try and stay on top of it. But, it is our customer’s decision at the end of the day.”

He described the ambulances as very basic but designed to do the job as required.

The rugged mobility of the ambulance is a critical factor.

“When they [paramedics and ambulance crew] go from village to village they have unpaved roads, you are on a dirt track essentially,” said Mr Martinez, who adds that the vehicles can travel over 500 kilometres per full tank of diesel.

Darell Cavilla, manager for the ambulance workshop, explained that the ambulances have two fuel tanks.

“They would easily do 500-700 kilometres before it would need to refuel,” he said.

“In the cab we include the PA, the microphone, siren, a beacon or a light bar, it depends on what the client wants. They could have VHF radios.”

“We do fit air conditioning at times but obviously it is more expensive and NGOs at the end of the day are a bit tight on money, so it depends.”

Normally there are 10 men working in the workshop building five ambulances a week.

“With this Covid we are responding with about ten to 12 a week,” said Mr Martinez.

The workshop is broken down into two shifts, one that starts at 7am to 2.30pm and another that starts at 2.30pm to 10pm.This is to avoid cross contamination.

A cleaner is constantly going around sanitising all areas. By way of example, this means that on average each door is cleaned once an hour.

Across all aspects of the workshops there are 80 people working.

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