Importance of Emergency Medical Care
Among the many issues that grabbed media headlines in the aftermath of the Paris carnage recently, the story of how the French medical emergency services responded to the unexpected challenge holds many lessons for us.
Within just TEN minutes of the blasts and shootings, information reached the Emergency Medical Services and its crisis cell called Assistance Publique-Hopitaux de Paris (APHP) got activated. This cell mobilised 100,000 health-care professionals, 22,000 hospital beds and 200 operation theatres across 40 public hospitals in preparedness, all within an hour. A crisis WHITE PLAN that had been worked out and rehearsed for several years was activated, making this the most coordinated medical rescue and support mission in Europe in its history.
The tasks of gathering information, networking and coordinating transport was managed by a cell of 15 people. Forty five well-equipped emergency ambulances with doctors, nurses and technicians were pressed into service, each knowing where to take whom, and each hospital being prepared with prior information to receive the patients being brought there.
When the blasts and shooting were going on, the state could not be sure as to how many more casualties may occur. It therefore took extra care of putting 2 other major university hospitals at the periphery of the city on alert.
A fleet of 10 helicopters was pressed into service for evacuation of casualties and monitoring medical rescue efforts. Thirty-five psychiatrists and a large number of counsellors were immediately brought in to meet with and provide support to panic stricken victims or shocked relatives.
Hospitals were kept out of bounds for the press and public. We did not get to see familiar visuals of bleeding patients, grieving relatives or corpses on television. Photo-ops of politicians visiting patients were also not seen. We did not see pretty young TV reporters thrusting microphones at grieving relatives and asking them about their feelings at such times!
Steps taken by Russia when its flight carrying over 200 holiday-goers crashed in Egypt was also educative. The flight’s destination was St Petersburg. On receiving information of the crash, one of the first steps taken by Russian authorities was to get 65 psychiatrists and counsellors to the airport hotel in that city where shocked and grieving relatives were expected to gather, anticipating human responses in such tragic occasions.
France and Russia, and for that matter most developed countries spend around 7 to 16% of their GDP on health. India, in contrast, spends a measly 1%. It is little surprise therefore that we deal so differently with our victims of floods, stampedes, blasts and earthquakes.
A developed country is also known by the health care it provides to its citizen. We are a nation growing in might and aspiring for a place in the security council of the United Nations, but we have miles to go before we can match our “developed” counterparts in medical emergencies.