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Trained and qualified to respond to emergencies, with a principal focus on saving lives, paramedics are nowadays fielding ridiculous callouts, like taking blood pressure or assisting a person with a plaster. This dismissive treatment being only the tip of the proverbial iceberg.
As explained by a collection of EMS businesses servicing the area, comprising of ER24 EMS, TRIVS Medical Services – Private Ambulance, and KwaZulu-Natal Private Ambulance, whom all state that with resources already stretched through pointless prank calls and issues totally unrelated to medical emergencies, people need to stop abusing this invaluable medical service.
ER24 EMS manager Willem Rossouw elaborates further. “One of the latest trends are youngsters who have started working and got medical aid, calling an ambulance out and when paramedics arrive, the individual will ask the paramedics to check their blood pressure, simply to show off to their friends as to show what their medical aid pays for.”
This costly trend, unfortunately, is not isolated to just youngsters. Elderly residents are well known for calling out paramedics merely to have their blood pressure tested.
Adding to this, TRIVS Medical Services Private Ambulance manager, Duresha Jugernath, says people are also calling out paramedics to their homes in a state of emergency, only to request oxygen when the EMS staff arrive. Further stating, these people often then refuse to be taken to hospital for treatment and care. “Hospitals do full medical treatment. Whereas, Emergency Medical Services do not preform X-Rays or assessments for patients. Once an ambulance is dispatched, a patient needs to be taken to hospital.”
While contacting an ambulance for some oxygen or a quick medical assessment might sound ridiculous to many, Jugernath explains this form of dismissive timewasting regularly occurs with people from all walks of life guilty of these acts.
Another popular trend, Rossouw explains, is people calling multiple EMS providers to their home, seeing who arrives at the address first to attend to their issue. This, he highlights, happens in Newcastle, Ladysmith, and neighbouring towns and is not a problem solely found in distant cities.
In addition to this, Rossouw adds that further strain is placed on resources as various EMS services are often called to the same collision. Stating that the public will contact EMS personnel reporting a major collision, claiming people are scattered all over the road and are busy dying. Yet, once multiple ambulances arrive, this is not the case.
Thinking people could not waste anymore of paramedics time, according to KwaZulu-Natal Private Ambulance’s Debbie Gafney, “I have had people calling us to come out because they have fallen out of bed and want to be put back.” Then there are the pranks calls, she says, which also plagues EMS companies. “We get calls where people play the fool and claim there is a major collision in Mdakane (just outside of Osizweni) and people are dying. It is a 40-minute drive there and when we get there, there is often nothing at all. The problem with this is, if there is a real emergency in town, who is going to respond if there is no one available because of these types of calls?”
On the topic of prank calls and people misusing EMS personnel for non-emergency-related issues, certain households and areas are being red-flagged. Gafney says this is unfortunate, as paramedics might think twice before responding in times of an actual emergency, simply due to the constant abuse of the services offered.
Therefore to correct any misunderstanding of when to call an ambulance, according to the three EMS professionals, the following are great guidelines:
- Multiple injuries
- Gunshot wounds and stabbings
- Heart attacks
- Chest pains
- Difficulty in breathing
- Overdose of medication or accidental intake of poisonous substances
- Any medical emergency involving a child
- Most burn wounds
- Possible drownings
In other words, back pain or a headache do not require the services of a qualified paramedic but rather a trip to your family doctor or Dischem.
Suppose you feel ill and can get to the doctor. In that case, you are encouraged to do so, especially as medical aids do not often cover ambulance trips to the hospital if it is not a medical emergency. This means you are liable for the costs of an ambulance trip when medical aids do not cover the financial requirements.
When looking at how specific individuals are misusing the services of the EMS sector, what are your thoughts?
Share your views in the comment section below.