Integration of all the “forces” of the public health system involved in the emergency transport of patients under the EKAB, with the administrative transfer to it of the ambulances of the Health Centers and their crews, includes the planning of the Ministry of Health. The same plan also includes the creation of a permanent mechanism for the use and requisition in cases of emergency of means of transport (boats, aircraft and ambulances) of the private sector.
In particular, the Ministry of Health is going to put to public consultation a draft law for the modernization of the EKAB and the medical records. According to information from “K”, the ministry will proceed with the mandatory transfer to EKAB of all drivers, paramedics and other employees of the Health Centers who work as ambulance crews. This staff will be assigned to corresponding category, branch and specialty positions in EKAB (whether organic or personal). In addition, all the ambulances of the Health Centers as well as their equipment will be transferred to EKAB.
Today, of the approximately 200 Health Centers in the country, 150-160 have ambulances which are usually staffed by a driver and a paramedic. These also cover areas where there is no EKAB sector (a total of 126 sectors across the country).
“Each month the EKAV receives from the Health Centers and the Health Regions the schedule of availability of their ambulances, so that it knows when it can send them a call for transport”, explains to “K” an executive of the Ministry of Health. Thus, if the director of a Health Center has given permission to the staff manning the ambulance, for EKAV the specific vehicle does not “exist”. According to the same source, it is often observed that there is no ambulance available at night or on weekends, without the EKAB being able to intervene correctively. The paradox of this situation was discovered by the leadership of the Ministry of Health during its first visit to the EKAB headquarters last June: when the Minister of Health Michalis Chrysochoidis asked for detailed information on the transfers, he was surprised to find that the information on the ambulances of the Health Centers does not exist , as they do not belong to this particular service.
According to information, the ambulance staff of the Health Centers expected to be transferred to EKAB is estimated at 500 people. However, their transportation alone is not enough to solve the problem of 24-hour ambulance coverage, as an additional 1,500 rescuers will be needed. At the moment, the Ministry of Health has received the green light for the recruitment of 800 lifeguards out of the 10,000 staff recruitments planned to be made in total in the Health Department by the end of the four years.
After all, the first serious crisis that the new leadership of the Ministry of Health faced was the delays in transfers due to a lack of staff. Already at the beginning of June, two serious incidents of ambulance delays had occurred, which involved the death of a 63-year-old woman in Kos and a 19-year-old pregnant woman in Nea Makri. Then the ministry opted for the participation of Armed Forces personnel to create mixed crews in remote areas of the country.
From July to September, 159 members of the Armed Forces were placed in Health Centers in 57 regions of the country, as a result of which ambulance shifts increased by 30%. The operation of mixed crews especially in remote areas and on small islands is expected to continue. As an official from the Ministry of Health told “K”, on small islands with 90-100 permanent residents, it is extremely unlikely that 10 rescuers will be appointed so that an ambulance can operate on a 24-hour basis.
In addition, the establishment of a permanent mechanism for the use and requisition of watercraft, aircraft and also private ambulances in emergency situations is being promoted. The ministry’s plan aims to enable EKAB to use private ambulances in urgent and unforeseen circumstances, either by contract or even by request. EKAB has the responsibility of compiling and updating lists of suitable private ambulances, but also of support with suitable personnel of the means “borrowed” from the private sector. Similar provisions will apply to private watercraft and private aircraft.
It is recalled that the government is promoting a system of primary transport (from the scene of the incident, directly to the hospital) with helicopters and using the six bases (Elefsina, Kavala, N. Aghialos, Heraklion of Crete, Ioannina, Andravida) provided by the National Aerial Search and Rescue Mechanism “Hermis Theocharopoulos”. In this context, it is planned to set up and operate an independent search, rescue and air transport unit at the Unified Coordination Center for Operations and Crisis Management, which will be staffed by personnel from the Fire Brigade, EKAV and GEETHA and will manage requests for the availability of helicopters.
With information from page kathimerini.gr