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EDITORIAL: Ambulances top priority


EDITORIAL: Ambulances top priority

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An ambulance service is a critical part of any health-care system. A moment’s thought ought to convince anyone that an injured or ailing patient who needs to get to hospital can find his very life hanging on the quick, efficient and competent  ambulance service. For delays in such circumstances may mean danger if one cannot reach even the most modern health care facility in time for the doctors and other medical personnel to apply their expert skills to the patient.

Since the delivery of health care is an integrated business in which every cog must play an important part, it is just as well that as we celebrate Ambulance Week we focus on one aspect of an efficient ambulance service.

A recent news item that there is a shortage of gurneys is therefore alarming; because an ambulance without a gurney is effectively useless. It cannot respond to any patient, and the service was able to respond to two calls only out of 20 received.

It seems that some gurneys are being used as beds in the Accident & Emergency Department, and this must stop, because gurneys contaminated by incontinent patients often take weeks to be rehabilitated.

The Ebola virus and the chikugunya disease have both shown that we are all involved in making sure that as far as possible we take individual and national health care issues seriously. Indeed, in this respect we are our brother’s keepers.

Most of us focus on doctors and health-care institutions and judge our quality of health care in many respects on the services rendered by such institutions. But there is an array of ancillary personnel who contribute mightily to the quality of our health services.

Paramedics, emergency medical dispatchers and especially the emergency medical technicians (EMTs) form part of the group of highly skilled ancillary medical staff whose heroic efforts day in and day out save precious lives of Barbadians and visitors alike.

As our ambulances weave in and out of traffic on our congested roads; unseen to the general public are the highly skilled personnel within the vehicle who are hard at work stabilising the patient and making critical observations which they pass to doctors and nurses. It is an awesome responsibility of a professional nature performed in situations of great pressure under the whiphand of limited time and regulated speed limits. It may mean the difference between life and death.

In some countries ambulance service providers are bound by specified response time guidelines, breaches of which have led to expensive lawsuits. We have not reached there yet, but for many obvious reasons it is unacceptable practice for there to be any shortage of gurneys now that we appear to have solved the problem of the shortage of ambulances.

If the service is as vital as it has shown itself to be: then all efforts must be made to equip the Ambulance Service with all the tools necessary to do the job they are to do. And we must eliminate all practices which handicap the efficiency of the Ambulance Service.