That was the essence of chief minister Fabian Picardo’s speech when he accepted the keys to a mobility ambulance from Kishin Alwani, whose personally-funded Alwani Trust had bought the brand-new £13,700 vehicle for use by the Gibraltar MS Therapy Centre. The chief minister accepted the keys to symbolise that the vehicle was a gift for the whole community. Also present were health minister John Cortes and minister for technical services Paul Balban, whose department had expedited the exemption certificate to allow the ambulance to have tinted windows. Many users and supporters of the centre, in Flint Road, North Front, were there along with the centre’s manager Jamie Pratts. The centre houses Gibraltar’s only oxygen chambers, which are used to treat a wide spectrum of conditions, including MS, ME, operation ulcers, divers’ bends and many others. It is operated by the manager and three trainees provided by the government.
According to Jamie Pratts, the problem was that many patients had to cancel their appointments because they couldn’t find anyone to transport them to the centre and back. This meant they had to hire a taxi, which was difficult for some of them to afford on a regular basis as many of them are wheelchair users. The centre approached the Alwani Trust in the hope of receiving a contribution towards the much-needed ambulance and were delighted when Kishin offered to pay the full amount. Fabian Picardo also told Mr Alwani that ‘the ambulance will live on as a tribute to your wife.’ Mrs Rajni Alwani passed away recently, and there is a plaque inside the ambulance with the words, ‘This Ambulance was donated by the Alwani Trust in memory of Mrs Rajni K Alwani.’ The ambulance is fully fitted as a mobility vehicle, with a wheelchair lift rather than a ramp, which is more comfortable for the patient as well as those assisting.
The centre has two comfortably fitted chambers – a four-seater and a six-seater – where patients spend an hour inhaling the oxygen-rich atmosphere. During this time they can read, talk, or listen to a DVD. Mr Pratts senior, the manager’s father, said that the centre has between nine and eleven sessions a day, treating 130 people a week. ‘It treats most healing processes,’ he said. ‘The list is almost endless – there is nothing that oxygen can’t help’