Donated ambulances lined up for loading at Liverpool Docks

Dockers at Liverpool lift one of the double deck buses on board.

Some of the over 70 ambulances ready for loading at Liverpool docks. These formed a large part of the first shipment. Many had been loaded with medical supplies etc.
Project Salud Logistics - Cuba May 1998

Donated ambulances lined up for loading at Liverpool Docks.

Salud was a project brought about following a member of UNISON, (the union who represent many of the ambulance service) going on holiday to CUBA. The health service had become virtually inoperative due to the loss of supply of goods and vehicle to move staff and patients.

Phil Lenton wished to send an old ambulance to Cuba to try and help at least one hospital with its transport problems. He would fill the vehicle with non high tech goods to further help, but would ensure that they did not break the embargo.

He found that this was not possible as transport to Cuba for one vehicle was impossible. After discussion with members of IRC he decided to form an alliance of people who wished to help Cuba and try to send a complete ship load of goods.

IRC became partners in this project, ensuring that they stayed out of any area which became political in motivation. The project finally sent 2 ships within a period covering 4 years.

After two consignments, Project SALUD then looked at a third and fourth ship for Cuba. The next shipment contained approximately 90 ambulances and double deck buses along with a few other items. IRC were involved in co-ordinating the logistics for these projects.

The first ship leaves Liverpool for Cuba

Fire appliances and buses ready for loading at Liverpool docks. These formed a large part of the first shipment. Many had been loaded with medical supplies, vehicle spares, baby goods, soap, etc.

An ambulance painted in Cuba and in use within Havana as the local accident and emergency vehicle. It had served in Wales in a similar role previously to being shipped.

Project Salud

The campaign called ‘Rebuilding the Cuban Ambulance Service’ saw Cuba receive 100 ambulances.

50 of these ambulances came from the London Ambulance Service while the other half came from other ambulance services around the country.

The campaign was started by Phil Lenton who was a Unison National Officer based in Newcastle. He went on a trip to Cuba with some other Unison people.
While he was there he visited the Ambrosia Grillo Hospital in Santiago de Cuba and saw for himself the appalling conditions the health workers had to work under because of the American blockade. He asked if there was anything he could do to help and was told that what they were most short of was transport to bring patients in and move staff around.

The Cuban Ministry of Public Health (MINSAP) had relied on nearly 3,000 Soviet built ambulances, the newest of which was more than 20 years old. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union there had been no spare parts available for these vehicles and over the last 10 years 90% of them had gone out of service. To obtain a high quality fully equipped emergency ambulance MINSAP would have had to pay anything from $50,000 to $100,000, from its very limited hard currency budget, which is subject to demands for urgent medicines and medical equipment.

Phil decided to send a bus from the UK which was the start of the campaign.

Santiago de Cuba is Cuba’s second city after Havana and is on the east of the island.

Many thanks to for permission to use this information

Some of the vehicles donated to the Cuban Red Cross. The vehicles were painted in Cuba by the staff who would be maintaining and running the fleet.
Donated ambulances lined up for loading at Liverpool Docks.
Single deck buses wait in line to be loaded at Liverpool Docks. The supplies are loaded inside, (medical supplies, vehicle spares, baby goods, soap, etc.).

One of the buses donated was refurbished here in the UK for the use of the Cuban National Football Team.
The staff who maintain some of the vehicles donated to the Red Cross in Cuba.


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