Emergency services demand urgent attention
Certain services that the state undertakes to provide are taken for granted by the public. And rightly so because they contribute towards their provision through taxes, though this does not mean such services should be abused in any way.
The ambulance service is a case in point. There are instances in emergency cases where a patient arriving in hospital and receiving the right treatment in the shortest time possible is a matter of life and death. So ambulances must be always available, up to standard, manned by well-trained staff and have all the equipment necessary to deal with an emergency.
The prevailing situation, however, seems to be well below expectations. What one of the victims of Wednesday’s confetti cannon blast in Gudja had to say about his experience in the ambulance taking him to hospital would be hilarious were it not so tragic.
Evidently an optimist by nature, Bjorn Callus described his ambulance ride in the following manner: “It would be an understatement to say we went off-roading”, adding that the ambulance hit a central strip and even had a puncture. Praising the ambulance crew, he noted that the road accident caused him a lot of pain as he was continuously jolted.
At least in his case the rented ambulance arrived on time. The Malta Union of Midwives and Nurses said that another rented ambulance used in the same accident took 90 minutes to arrive at the scene. The administration of Mater Dei Hospital said the late arrival was being investigated, promising that “action will be taken accordingly”.
Many would say that an investigation into the state of affairs at the ambulance service and remedial action should have already been taken. Well before Wednesday’s accident, the nurses’ union had already complained that the emergency ambulance fleet was in an unacceptable state and unsafe. Mater Dei Hospital objected and insisted that all ambulances in use adhere to internationally-recognised standards at all times and any vehicle certified as “not usable” is not in service until the necessary repairs are carried out.
It must also be borne in mind that ambulances are continuously in demand and so physical wear and tear of the vehicles reaches high levels. It also a fact that the abuse of ambulance use is widespread and prank calls waste valuable time.
However, given this is a vital service, no stone should be left unturned and no expense should be spared to ensure it runs smoothly and continuously.
It falls upon all of us – the authorities, medics, paramedics and the public – to ensure that the ambulance service is always in tip-top condition.
The powers-that-be must prioritise and make the necessary investment. In doing so, they must be proactive rather than reactive. They should be in a position to plan ahead rather than end up taking remedial action. Doctors, nurses and their representatives must ensure they do not shoot from the hip and always be seen to be putting the patient first.
Unfortunately, there were instances where both the MUMN and the Medical Association of Malta appeared to be putting their sectoral interests first. Recently, the nurses’ union even came up with the idea of having a new 500-bed hospital. Was it really being serious?
Moreover, people need to understand that ambulances are there to serve them and that abuse of whatever form could lead to life-threatening situations.
It is evident that this emergency service deserves urgent attention and emergency measures. Delays do not just cost time, but also lives.