Recently a Gibraltar St John’s ambulance was stopped as it took an elderly patient to a private hospital in Benalmádena – around 100 kilometres from the Rock.
It was waved down by a Guardia Civil patrol because the ambulance was flashing blue emergency lights and not the amber ones permitted in Spain. The driver was fined – but as he didn’t have sufficient cash on him – the amount was reduced – I kid you not!
Before I proceed I should point out that Gibraltar ambulances frequently cross in to Spain and indeed vice versa – but this is the first time there has ever been such a distasteful and potentially tragic incident.
Now Gibraltar’s Shadow Health Minister, Neil Costa, has dug up some intriguing information on the issue. It turns out the European Union standardised back in June 2007 the emergency lights to be shown on an ambulance capable of transporting at least one person on a stretcher. The colour is blue.
The EU took this step to ensure all emergency vehicles – ambulances, police and the fire brigade – showed a uniform colour – blue – especially as such vehicles had on occasions to cross the border in to a fellow EU State.
There are only two EU countries that did not comply with these regulations – Spain and Greece. In Spain only the police agencies can use blue – other emergency vehicles have to use amber.
Neil Costa added: “The Guardia Civil must have immediately recognised the ambulance was from Gibraltar when it was stopped and fined it so that it is not clear what purpose was served by such an unnecessary action.”
Indeed if the encounter between the Guardia Civil and the ambulance wasn’t so shamefully it would be laughable - but then life and death is never a laughing matter!