An electric minibus has been delivered to the Island Council ready for use in transporting patients from the public bus stop to the Mateu Orfila Hospital, a free service which should start within the next fortnight.

The vehicle, manufactured by Teycars and costing 20,500 euros, can take nine people including the driver. It has a hydraulic ramp on either side to provide easier access for people with mobility problems and is fitted with plastic side curtains for protection in wet or windy weather. With a top speed of 25 kms. per hour, the minibus can travel 100 kms. before its 16 lithium batteries need recharging, which will be carried out overnight at a special point installed near the dialysis unit.

The reduced capacity of the Cartagena electric minibus means that priority will be given to patients with mobility problems. The service will run every 15 minutes to avoid long waits and will connect the bus stop on the Vía Ronda to the Outpatients Department, the main entrance and the A&E Department. It will run from 0900 to 1930 hrs. Monday to Friday and 1530 to 1930 hrs. on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays.

The vehicle's two future drivers, both of whom are members of the Foundation for Handicapped People, are shortly to take a theory exam for the necessary licence and a third person is expected to do likewise shortly in order to cover the drivers' holiday periods or absences.

The decision to start the shuttle service between the bus stop and hospital was taken after the bus companies ruled out the possibility of diverting the bus route into the Mateu Orfila's grounds due to the disruption it would cause to timetables. The choice of an electric minibus is part of the Island Council's determination to introduce more of these environmentally-friendly vehicles to Menorca.