Officials and residents disagree on use of EMS and the determination of what is considered an emergency

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EMS in action (2018 photo)

“Foolish” is the term being used to describe a press release issued by the Antigua and Barbuda Emergency Medical Services (EMS) about the level of non-emergency calls it receives on a daily basis.

Reportedly, the department has only two ambulances in addition to a rapid response vehicle, and the EMS is concerned about the number of requests it receives for these services.

From January 1 to the end of July this year, it has received 7,841 calls, the EMS reports. On average, it says, it receives 35 calls per day and only 20% of these are genuine emergencies.

Officials say this practice of making non-emergency calls is a major factor in the logistical challenges the EMS faces in responding to emergencies – such as the one that occurred at Fig Tree Drive two Fridays ago.

The Department says it has a responsibility to respond to every call from the Public Safety Network (911), since each one is treated as a genuine emergency until proven otherwise.

Even after assessing the situation upon arrival at the scene and determining that it is not a genuine emergency, the Emergency Medical Technicians still have a responsibility to transfer the patient to the hospital once they request it, the Department explains.

The EMS is “therefore imploring members of the public to desist from this practice so that [it] can continue to provide the best possible pre-hospital care to those persons who are genuinely in need of emergency assistance.”

However, some residents are infuriated by the release. They are asking how a person who feels unwell can truly know if he is facing an emergency unless checked by the professionals.

“How does the general public determine what is an emergency requiring EMS services?” one person asks.

A woman notes that some people choose to call the ambulance since it is the only way of accessing speedy attention at the hospital. Otherwise, she says, persons have to sit in the waiting room – in some cases, for over 12 hours.

When people are faced with a health crisis, the first thing they try to do is get medical assistance for the affected person in the shortest possible time, she says.

Therefore, the woman suggests using “social media in a positive way” to address the current situation.

She recommends that the Department launch health-related educational podcasts – or You-Tube instructional videos – on what can be done to help the sick or the injured, and highlight which are cases for the EMS or emergency room and which require a trip to the clinic or the doctor.

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8 COMMENTS

  1. Clear agreed published guidelines
    Education
    Improve assessment & action times at A&E, MSJMC(system & staffing review and adjustments)

    Is there a place for an online visual triage assessment number outside clinic hours?
    Majority of population has a cellphone.

    Many other countries utilized this during pandemic and have continued because their A&E and ambulance services are massively overloaded and unable to respond to genuine life or death emergencies for 1.5hr+, which is unacceptable.

    and please people, STOP using hospital emergency room to issue sick notes – this is a doctor or clinic role, not an emergency!

  2. ‘A woman notes that some people choose to call the ambulance since it is the only way of accessing speedy attention at the hospital. Otherwise, she says, persons have to sit in the waiting room – in some cases, for over 12 hours.”

    This is clearly abuse of the system. Mind you when you get to the ER and they assess you and it’s not considered an emergency then you have to wait like everyone else.

    • People feel they smart but if they really smart, they would have an emergency plan in place. For those who can afford private health insurance, this plan might be to fly overseas cause you will wait whether 24hours 7days 1month in this Antigua.

  3. Yeah yeah… Bash the EMS about what and what not is an emergency until you hear that no ambulance is available to come after your parent who is having a heart attack because the last ambulance went to a man who tump his big toe.

    • Red Cross can help will ambulance
      Red Cross can help with tump toes too
      But question is: do they?

  4. Here we go again, more fire trucks than ambulance. Pure nonsense. We were crying for fire trucks and as Hon. Maulwin Joseph said we are a reactive people. So time to cry for ambulances . Maybe PLH, Calvin Ayre, or the Chinese might donate. We need to manage our economy and stop the waste. Example PWD engineers not doing anything while the foreign owned road construction company is raking in millions and hundreds of millions. So is market Kool and Grayham supermarket Louis. All them leaks can buy a new ambulance every month. Then the statutory boards, they have catering services at board meetings , like fetes. Then look at the salaries of the head of social security and board of education, more ambulances.
    Now about who is considered emergency, i don’t think it should be ever up to EMS to decide on that. There will always be calls that you might think do not require EMS . However , many a time EMS workers say this is not an emergency and next thing the person drop dead. Can remember they came to my house once and said that my family members was good and it was not a emergency. We had called a doctor too and the doctor came when they were about to leave. The doctor diagnosed it was really serious and encouraged them to take him to the hospital. He did not survive. We need to be improving on our health system.we need to have ambulance stationed in strategic areas.

  5. Nine days of talk_ _ _
    The writeup by the ministry giving explicit details to the public last week, only shows how dumb some civil servants are
    The issue of ambulance availability is not a standalone one
    The issue of ER wait times is not a standalone one
    The issue of abuse of resources by the sick public and by civil servants or nonestablished workers cannot be addressed without addressing who ALL drive G-plated and SC-plated vehicles in this country
    When there is a complete overhaul of healthcare, things will change. Overhaul requires plenty plenty plenty plenty money and rigorous accountability/strategizing/remodelling Government will have to ask the citizens to pay a WHOLE lot more into MBS monthly. Regulatory entites will have to ensure the money is not mismanaged or diverted. Honest hardworking public and private servants and uncorrupt politicians will have to be identified to take up VERY stressful oversight roles
    So please lets just accept that people will continue to suffer because the problem is not gonna be solved anytime soon cause Antiguans dont back their chat. Barbudans would back their chat but not Antiguans.
    WHERE THERE IS NO WILL, THERE IS NO WAY!

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