The government has announced plans to launch air ambulance services on 1 March. During a press briefing at the President’s Office on Monday morning, Abdulla Nazim Ibrahim, the Principal Secretary to the President on Public Policy, disclosed that two air ambulances will begin operations on 1 March, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Island Aviation Services Ltd. (IAS), the operator of national carrier Maldivian.

The air ambulance services, which will employ aircraft to expedite the transportation of patients to healthcare facilities in Malé or other regional hospitals and for medical evacuations, will be overseen by a specific department in the health ministry, Ibrahim added. This department was instituted by the preceding administration of former President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih in anticipation of the introduction of air ambulance services.

Addressing queries from local media regarding the funding plan for air ambulance services, Ibrahim stated that the government is yet to finalise a funding strategy. However, he added that there is an opportunity for private companies to finance the services, and in the absence of other options, the government will undertake the funding. The specific type of aircraft to be used as air ambulances remains undetermined.

The air ambulances will be equipped with stretchers and the requisite services and equipment to administer treatment to patients while they are in transit to medical facilities, Ibrahim added. The inauguration of air ambulance services will fulfil a commitment made by President Mohamed Muizzu.

During previous administrations, medical evacuations were conducted using helicopters and a Dornier aircraft provided by the Indian government. However, the Muizzu administration has discontinued the use of aircraft provided by India and requested that the Indian government withdraw its military presence in the Maldives.

In another decision made at the cabinet meeting on Sunday, Ibrahim revealed that the cabinet resolved to ensure that migrant workers who have not completed their medical screenings do so within the next six months.

The cabinet has decided to mandate annual medical checkups for expatriate workers and upon their arrival in the country, Ibrahim added. While migrant workers have 30 days to complete their medical checkup after arrival, the government has decided to reduce this to 15 days. The medical checkups can only be conducted at medical facilities approved by the government, he added.

The cabinet also decided to reserve specific jobs in the country exclusively for locals, Ibrahim revealed. While the government states that this decision was made to provide job opportunities in areas of high local interest, these include a diverse range of professions, from pilots and guest relations officers to nurses and teachers, in addition to specific careers in the beauty industry.

These changes will be implemented in phases according to a specific timeline, Ibrahim noted. The dedication of certain job opportunities and fields to locals also fulfills a pledge made by Muizzu.