Saigon sets up motorbike-borne emergency medical response team

By Le Phuong   November 30, 2018 | 04:36 pm PT
Saigon sets up motorbike-borne emergency medical response team
A motorbike-borne emergency response medical team in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo by VnExpress/Le Binh
Saigon has become the first city in Vietnam to launch a motorbike emergency medical response service.

Since its trial launch November 7 medical personnel have been reaching patients within five minutes even in this congested city.

Nguyen Khac Vui, deputy director of the Saigon General Hospital, which manages the service, was all praise for it at a general review Tuesday. The hospital has received 67 emergency calls since its launch, and dispatched motorbikes in 26 instances.

Of them, nine patients were treated on the spot, while the remaining 17 were given first aid and taken to hospital by ambulance cars."The motorcycle ambulances’ maneuverability is ideal for patients living in small alleys and during rush hour," Vui said.

"The model ensures patients get access to doctors as quickly as possible.

"People were initially surprised and perplexed but have come around. Some people even asked for a team of emergency doctors on motorbikes."

Among the many patients supported by the motorbike service is a pregnant woman who had been showing signs of hemorrhaging and delivering prematurely.

When her family called the emergency number, 115, it turned out her house was deep inside a small alley, virtually inaccessible by traditional ambulance. Emergency responders were immediately dispatched on motorcycles.

Five minutes after the call doctors and nurses with basic equipment had arrived by her side. After checking her vital signs and providing fluid transfusion, the emergency personnel took her to hospital.

Other hospitals want to come on board

Dr Tran Van Khanh, director of the District 2 Hospital, has asked the city Department of Health to deploy the service at his hospital too. 

The number of emergency calls to the hospital is increasing rapidly while there are many narrow alleys in its coverage area, not to mention frequent traffic jams, often rendering its three ambulances unsuitable.

"There are days when we don’t have any ambulance and doctors have to carry all their tools by taxi to the patient’s home, provide first aid and wait for the ambulance to arrive," Khanh said.

Dr Nguyen Minh Quan, director of the Thu Duc District Hospital, told VnExpress that his hospital gets more than 30 emergency calls every day but has only two ambulances.

"The emergency needs are high, the traffic congestion is quite bad. So, when the medical crew arrives at the scene, people often complain about them arriving late."

The District 1 Hospital and the District 4 Hospital have also asked for the ambulance motorcycle service.

Dr Nguyen Duy Long, director of the 115 Emergency Center, said the goal is to reach people in need within 10 minutes, but the lack of satellite centers and traffic congestion prevent responders from reaching the scene quickly. The two-wheel vehicle model is expected to provide the quickest access to patients, thus saving more lives, he said.

The Saigon General Hospital responders’ motorbikes are equipped with tools like neck splints, blood glucose meters and defibrillators.

Associate Professor Tang Chi Thuong, deputy director of HCMC's Health Department, said the motorcycle response model is successfully deployed in many countries.

"The city has more than 10 million people, and in 2017 the 115 Emergency Center received [only] 12,000 calls, which was very little," Thuong said.

According to the department, within three weeks the two-wheeler model has shown the "advantages of quick and cost-effective arrival at the scene, and it could be of economic benefit in the long run."

HCMC will continue to trial the model for one to two months, calculating the cost before taking it city-wide.

"The two-wheeler medical staff must comply with traffic rules and speed limits like a normal motorbike, and pay attention to safety on the road," Thuong said.

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