Medical Care on Wheels
● A pregnant woman sat in a large auditorium listening attentively to a program of Bible instruction. Suddenly, she felt sharp labor pains. But the emergency was under control. An ambulance was at hand, and within a few minutes, the woman and her husband arrived at the hospital. She gave birth to a beautiful baby girl.
Today, intensive-care-unit ambulances play an important role in the health systems of many countries. These vehicles are staffed by qualified personnel—doctors, nurses, and trained drivers.* They are fully equipped to handle such emergencies as road accidents, heart attacks, strokes, or imminent births. Every year this rapid medical care on wheels saves thousands of lives.
In the 2004 attacks on four passenger trains in Madrid, Spain, some 400 lives were saved because the ambulance teams reacted quickly and efficiently.* Dr. Ervigio Corral Torres, director of Madrid’s emergency services unit, recalls that ordeal. “These are the incidents that attract massive media coverage,” he explains, “but where we are really efficient is in the day-to-day routine, helping people on the street. That is the best aspect of this service, enabling people who had little chance of survival to be alive now.”
When asked what he would recommend to facilitate their work, Dr. Corral Torres replied: “We should increase people’s awareness of the need to call us when there is reason to do so.” He added: “Our goal is to take specialized medical care to the people wherever and whenever they need it and to do so as quickly as possible once we receive the call.” In large cities, help usually arrives within ten minutes.
In some congested cities, such as São Paulo, Brazil, traffic creates serious problems for ambulance drivers, so medics on two wheels do the job. They can arrive by motorbike ahead of the ambulance to evaluate and stabilize emergency situations. Other cities that have implemented this speedy service are London, England; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; and Miami, United States.
Drivers must know how to use the ambulance medical equipment and how to drive according to the type of patient they carry.
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HOW YOU CAN HELP
Some basic steps that you can take in an emergency to help mobile medical teams fulfill their lifesaving work include:
1. Call the emergency number immediately. It is 112 in the European Union and 911 in the United States.
2. State clearly the place of the emergency.
3. Describe the obvious symptoms. For example, Is the person breathing? Is he conscious? Is he bleeding?
4. If there are multiple injuries, do not move the person since doing so can make injuries worse.
5. If the person is vomiting, place him on his side to prevent choking.