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August 17, 2012

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Home » Metro » Health and Science

Health bureau plans to overhaul ambulance services

ABOUT 40 percent of local ambulance services are used on non-emergency patient transfers, jeopardizing already strained medical resources.

To improve the situation, Shanghai will divide ambulances into two groups - emergency patient transfers and non-emergency patient transfers.

The ambulances will have different levels of medical equipment and staff on board, officials said yesterday.

Ambulances for emergencies will be equipped with advanced pre-hospital diagnosis and treatment machines, medication and experienced doctors. Those offering non-emergency services will have more basic equipment and first-aid personnel who are not doctors.

"The plan will be carried out soon," said Qu Jieming, vice director of the Shanghai Health Bureau. Health officials said this will be a better use of limited medical resources and, most of all, a solution to the serious shortage of ambulance doctors, who are quitting due to low pay, a heavy workload, poor benefits and a lack of career advancement.

The city had about 500 ambulance doctors as of last year, only half of what it needs.

An ambulance crew currently consists of three people - the driver, a doctor and another person who has basic medical training and helps move patients, officials said.

Qu also said to make the plan feasible, the city will apply to the Ministry of Health to create a new position similar to a paramedic.

"Doctors will be dispatched to critical patients while the others will serve those needing basic transfers."

Dr Gao Wen, president of Shanghai Chest Hospital, said pre-hospital diagnosis and treatment is playing a more important role in local health services and Shanghai will strongly push its development.

"For instance, the first 90 minutes is a crucial period for treatment of people with acute chest pain, a major symptom of a heart attack," Gao said. "Through cooperation with ambulance doctors, who can send electrocardiography readings through WiFi, we can offer effective treatment within 67 minutes after a patient arrives at the hospital. The national average is 149 minutes."


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