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Dr Duncan

000 - help when you really need it

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As a family Doctor, you don’t tend to be involved in the “pointy end” of Medicine where all the drama occurs, such as Casualty Departments, Operating Theatres and Intensive Care Units. But as a little kid I sometimes dreamt of being in the back of an ambulance with sirens screaming and lights flashing as I courageously saved the life of an innocent victim of some tragic event! But even though the majority of my life has been spent as a “closeted” GP, over the years I have experienced some of those adrenaline rushes of being on the scene of an accident and taking part in helping such accident victims.

I still vividly remember driving home many years ago, whilst I was an Intern in the UK, and coming across a MVA where an ambulance had just arrived on the scene. I stopped and offered to help out and was immediately pushed to the front by the ambulance officer to take over the situation. Luckily for the patient, the injuries were not life threatening but I was still “bundled” into the back of the vehicle by myself whilst the ambulance set off with all the drama the situation appeared to demand. My first concern was naturally for the accident victim, but my other worry was that I had left my car by the side of the road with the keys in it, and how on earth was I going to get back to it!

Moving forward a few decades how things have changed, and what a huge improvement in the delivery of emergency care.
Only a couple of months ago I stopped at the scene of a motor vehicle accident in Wembley and the comparison is level of professionalism was enormous. I have tremendous respect for our local Ambulance Officers and happily let them lead the “Team” at the site of an accident, only offering supportive advice when and where necessary. These modern day professionals are very well versed in how to deal with all these emergency situations – they undergo a 3-year training program before being certified as fully-fledged Ambulance Officers. At that first accident experience in the UK, the officers there only had basic first aid training, which meant they could put on a splint or put your arm in a sling if you’d hurt your shoulder, but nothing much else!

And the vehicles themselves are incredibly well fitted out and a far cry from the old vans/trucks that were converted for carrying injured people in days gone bye. Those who had the misfortune to be a passenger in the back of an olden-day ambulance will remember the lack of suspension, and being thrown around when the thing went round a sharp corner! Today, a fully equipped ambulance is like a mini ICU so that critically injured people can be kept alive and stable until they arrive at hospital where the work of restoration can begin.

But our St John’s Ambulance service isn’t just limited to terrestrial service, it also includes a Helicopter which allows them to reach a radius of 200kms from Perth and cover 90% of the population of WA with a first class emergency rescue service. At the other end of the scale, the Patient Transfer Service, which does 70% of the legwork of the ambulance service, frees up the acute ambulance care vehicles to perform their life saving activities.
The big thing is that you never know when you are going to need an ambulance, but at some point in your life you, or someone in your family group will require one. Over the decades we have come to accept that a first class emergency service is a “natural” part of our daily lives, and we’d be horrified if someone decided to take it away from us. But running such an awesome service – training personnel, equipping and maintaining state of the art vehicles, wages etc – comes at a substantial cost and someone has to pick up the bill! 
Here are the patient costs the St Johns Ambulance Service publicizes on its Web Page:

Service and Fee:
Life threatening   $847
Urgent    $847
Routine Transport   $454
Patient Transport Vehicle  $416

… and the last thing that a worried family needs is to get a “huge” bill whilst their nearest and dearest is still in hospital, which makes insurance seem like a really sensible idea!
Finally a few words on what information you will be asked for should you ever have to ring those dreaded three digits 000.
When you call triple zero (000) you will be asked “Do you require Police, Fire or Ambulance?” When you are transferred to the correct service you may be asked the following questions:
  • Location of the emergency?
  • Cross street or landmark?
  • Call back phone number?
  • Nature of the emergency?
  • Number of people involved?
  • Is the patient conscious?
  • Is the patient breathing?

Being properly prepared may help you save someone’s life!
Reference: St Johns Ambulance Western Australia


Article written by Dr. Duncan Jefferson. More articles here. For more information on health care and private health cover, visit HBF Insurance at www.hbf.com.au.

The content of these articles is not tailored for any particular individual's circumstances. The author does not take into account your physical condition, medical history or any medication you may be taking. Any advice or information provided by the author cannot replace the advice of your health care professional. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent those of HBF unless clearly indicated.

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