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February 20, 2012

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Hospital waiting slows ambulances

SHANGHAI'S ambulance service is well-equipped but hampered by a shortage of first aid doctors and delays at hospitals due to a lack of beds, emergency services officials said yesterday.

The Shanghai Medical Emergency Center was responding to criticism after a 70-year-old man died on Wednesday after he collapsed near a hospital.

It took 30 minutes for an ambulance to arrive, as none were available when called.

"We have enough equipment and ambulances, the issues are with numbers of first aid professionals and a smooth-running operation," said a center official, surnamed Dong.

"Ambulances are delayed at hospitals as emergency rooms are full when they arrive and patients have to stay in the vehicle."

In such cases, ambulances must wait until a bed is found.

The official said last Wednesday ambulances responded to 919 emergency calls. But 74 of these call-outs were delayed at hospitals until a bed could be found.

Shanghai Health Bureau said it is aware of the issue and ordered local hospitals to improve emergency facilities and admit patients within 10 minutes.

However, many hospitals fail to meet this target.

To add further pressure, Dong said the number of ambulances available is affected by a shortage of first aid doctors, who travel with the crew, with many quitting due to working conditions. This year, the center has lost 30 doctors out of 570.

Many complained of a monthly salary of around 3,000 yuan (US$476), poor career development, a heavy workload and work pressure, officials said.

The average salary of Shanghai employees was 3,896 yuan a month last year, according to local human resource bureau.

"They work under high pressure, dealing with patients on their own, often surrounded by onlookers," Dong said.


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