Pri­vate am­bu­lance ser­vices of­ten favour profit over pa­tients

The Compass - - OPINION -

As some­one ac­tively in­volved in the emer­gency ser­vices in­dus­try, I find my­self con­tin­u­ally frus­trated with many pri­vate am­bu­lance ser­vice’s lack of fo­cus on pa­tient care in or­der to sat­isfy their de­sire for profit. I have per­son­ally wit­nessed events which have greatly hin­dered many pa­tient’s care and have pos­si­bly caused oth­ers to lose their lives.

Firstly, many of the pri­vate am­bu­lance ser­vices in this area are run out of a funeral home. Con­flict of in­ter­est? It would seem that way as the com­pany would stand to make a profit whether a pa­tient lives or dies. I’ve spo­ken with fam­i­lies who have been mor­ti­fied to wit­ness a hearse ap­pear at the scene of a loved one’s emer­gency be­fore the pa­tient has even passed away.

Of­ten­times, emer­gency per­son­nel who are dis­patched to the scene of an emer­gency bat­tle ex­haus­tion as they have been on the clock for 24 hours straight or longer. Ac­cord­ing to labour board, em­ploy­ees are en­ti­tled to an eight- hour break ev­ery 24 hours. Those em­ployed in the emer­gency field are some­how ex­empt.

Wouldn’t it make sense to en­sure that those en­gaged in such high-stress sit­u­a­tions are well-rested in or­der to prop­erly per­form their job?

I’ve wit­nessed am­bu­lances dis­patched to calls with­out oxy­gen tanks, stair chairs and re­li­able di­ag­nos­tic equip­ment. Some pri­vate ser­vices can­not jus­tify spend­ing the money in or­der to main­tain ster­ile equip­ment. A col­league of mine re­counted a story in which the em­ployer man­dated that the oxy­gen masks be washed and reused af­ter they had come in contact with bod­ily flu­ids. Some ser­vices do not have stretch­ers for over­weight pa­tients but in­stead rely on stretch­ers not de­signed to hold them. This in­creases the risk of in­jury to both the EMS worker and pa­tient.

Some EMS work­ers will find them­selves forced to dis­patch calls, a prac­tice which likely falls out­side of their realm of ex­pe­ri­ence. In one such in­stance, while try­ing to send an emer­gency crew to the scene of a se­ri­ously injured pa­tient, the un­trained dis­patcher ac­ci­den­tally gave them the wrong ad­dress. This de­lay re­sulted in the pa­tient suc­cumb­ing to his in­juries. On top of this, dis­patch­ers are only re­quired to com­plete the most ba­sic of du­ties. For ex­am­ple, when an emer­gency call is made dis­patch­ers rarely col­lect more than the lo­ca­tion and the rea­son for the call. This is a wasted op­por­tu­nity to im­prove pa­tient care as dis­patch­ers can help con­sole the per­son while guid­ing them through ba­sic First Aid and CPR prac­tices.

If back-up is needed while you are on scene, a para­medic may be un­able to get it. Pri­vate ser­vices are not paid to send ad­di­tional am­bu­lances to help even though sev­eral neigh­bour­ing ser­vices may be avail­able. In or­der to cut costs, large ar­eas are reg­u­larly ser­viced by one am­bu­lance. If two emer­gen­cies were to hap­pen at once there would be in­ad­e­quate am­bu­lances avail­able to re­spond to them.

Ser­vices com­pete for calls, as they are paid on a per call ba­sis. This means that if a call is made to the ser­vice far­thest away from where the emer­gency is tak­ing place then that ser­vice will re­spond to the emer­gency in­stead of ap­pro­pri­ately redi­rect­ing the call to the clos­est ser­vice.

The move to­wards a gov­ern­ment-run EMS field would greatly im­prove pa­tient care and re­sponse time in the prov­ince and set New­found­land on par with the other prov­inces.

Crys­tal Sparkes is a na­tive of Toronto, Ont., but is cur­rently re­sid­ing in Bay Roberts. She is a para­medic work­ing in Con­cep­tion Bay North and plans to move

back to On­tario in 2013.

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