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Paramedics face a long, hard road (2)

By WANG HONGYI  (China Daily)

08:56, May 17, 2013

Taxis faster

Shanghai authorities have no target time for ambulances responding to emergency calls. According to authorities, in more than 75 percent of cases a paramedic will be on the scene within 12 minutes, but it can take longer due to road traffic.

Wang Bing, a Beijing lawyer who specializes in medical disputes, said that although firetrucks and police cars can force their way through traffic, ambulances do not have that right and must wait for other vehicles to make way.

"When demand for ambulances is intense, our operators will suggest a patient take a taxi if his or her condition is not serious, such as a sprained ankle," said Zhang Yu, an official at Shanghai Medical Emergency Center. "If they are in a serious condition, such as bleeding profusely, we suggest they wait for the ambulance."

However, as health professionals point out, not every resident is aware of what each hospital is equipped to handle. In the case of the British boy, Sun said she did not know Shuguang Hospital specialized in traditional Chinese medicine and would be unlikely to have an emergency room.

"Most people will naturally think of just heading to the nearest hospital," said nurse Shu Hua at Zhongshan Hospital. "For example, Huashan Hospital doesn't have obstetrics or gynecology units ... so rushing a pregnant woman in labor there would be extremely dangerous."

To make matters worse, the demand for what authorities term "pre-hospital care" — first-aid doctors and ambulances — is rising at a rate of 10 to 15 percent. This is due to the fact the city's population continues to increase and grow older.

Health authorities say they have been looking at ways to boost their limited resources and efficiency.

"We plan to build more ambulance stations, hopefully so each community will have one," said Zhang at the emergency center, without elaborating on a time frame for the project. On average, one in every two communities has a station.

The service will also introduce a classification system, which will see patients in serious condition or who need emergency surgery sent to designated hospitals to avoid wasting time on transfers, he added.

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