Best practices for ambulance services – excellent health care for patients

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AMBULANCE drivers and first aiders are often a patient’s first ontact to health-care services. To guarantee the provision of quality care to the sick and wounded, even in challenging conditions, their safety is the first priority.
Last year the Norwegian Red Cross, together with its Colombian and Lebanese counterparts, co-hosted two workshops for ambulance drivers, personnel and operational coordinators of 12 Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. Their mission was to identify best practices to make the delivery of ambulance and pre-hospital services safer.
An ambulance is destroyed during fighting in Libya. CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / Xiangqun Hu Frederik Siem, HCiD Advisor of the Norwegian Red Cross (NorCross) is neither an ambulance driver nor a first aider. Yet his work was instrumental in organizing the HCiD workshops in Cartagena and Beirut in 2014. The report “Best Practice for Ambulance Services in Risk Situations” was published as a result in July 2015.
How do the workshops and this report contribute to the protection of health care? In our report we propose practical recommendations for volunteers and staff who conduct ambulance and pre-hospital operations.
Many of the best practices mentioned are relevant for other organisations too, beyond those of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. We’re not proposing something brand new but rather a selection of examples from which solutions can be picked out and contextualized in order to strengthen the response and decrease risk exposure.
In some countries, seat belts should be removed when approaching a road block because the seconds it takes to do it, and duck away from potential danger, can prove to be fatal. In other, arriving at a check point without a seat belt on can result in unnecessary delays as security forces are required to ensure every driver respects the law.
To give another example, one workshop participant asked why we were talking about uniforms and not about security issues. An ambulance driver of another culture explained to him that they used to have uniforms with a small black pouch that had been mistaken as a gun holster. This could lead to security issues when a volunteer was rushing to help a victim but looked like he was grabbing his side arm rather than first aid equipment.
This is precisely why we need to discuss and share experiences and lessons learned from other countries. Bangladesh Red Crescent Society responded immediately to the collapse of an eight-storey building that housed factories. CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / Onchita Shadman.

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