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An Emergency Medical Service (EMS) has been set up at the Linstead Fire Station in St. Catherine to offer pre-hospital care to those in need of urgent medical treatment.
The facility, which adjoins the fire station, is equipped with an ambulance and staffed with firefighters trained as basic level Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs), who will be able to operate specialized ambulances. Persons can access the service by dialing 110.
Minister of Local Government, Community Development and Sport Portia Simpson-Miller yesterday (Oct.12) officially launched the service and opened the EMS office.
The project is a collaborative effort between the Ministry of Health and the Local Government Ministry. Funds were provided through the Inter-American Development Bank for the purchase of the ambulance and the training of personnel from the Ministry of Health and the Jamaica Fire Brigade as EMTs.
Minister Simpson-Miller informed the gathering that the Jamaica Fire Brigade has been offering emergency medical care at fire stations situated in Negril and Savanna-la-mar in Westmoreland; Lucea, Hanover and Ironshore in St. James. The concept of a 24-hour pre-hospital medical service was introduced some years ago, with technical support from the Metro Dade Fire Rescue Services in Florida and the Cayman Islands EMS.
Noting the importance of the service, the Minister stated that from January to December 2004, the EMS team responded to 2,754 calls, while from January 2005 to September 2005, 1,380 calls were made to the EMS.
The Minister praised the staff of the Jamaica Fire Brigade for assisting in emergencies apart from their regular duties. “Despite the challenges, you stand up like champions and you are working beyond the call of duty. As your Minister, I’m very proud of you and you have my full support,” she said.
She expressed the need for the service at all fire stations and announced plans to establish an EMS in Portmore before year-end.
Guest speaker and Minister of Health, John Junor, appealed to residents to refrain from calling the station unnecessarily. “One of the major things, which affect these services is false alarms. There are persons, who call in simply because the service is there and when we arrive, there is no real emergency,” he said, adding that the service was designed for “urgent life threatening medical emergencies.”
Minister Junor said the Ministry would continue to provide medical direction and training as well as to monitor staff at the centres. He explained that the main component of the EMS include technically sound medical direction and supervision, a streamlined organisational structure, appropriate and available equipment and supplies, a coordinated pre-hospital response and appropriate care at the receiving hospital.
“Emergency medical care is not just about picking up people from a site of an accident or where they suffered a heart attack at home. It is being able to give first response at the site, to be able to stabilize your patient as much as possible and moving them into a hospital setting and emergency room,” he emphasised.
Other critical components, he said, were the education and training of the health team and the collaboration and cooperation of key response agencies and groups such as the Office of Disaster Emergency and Management (ODPEM) and the police.
Other speakers at the event were Member of Parliament for North West St. Catherine and Minister of Transport and Works, Robert Pickersgill and Senior Medical Officer of Health and Director of Special Projects and Emergency Management and Disaster Services, Dr. Marion Bullock Ducasse.