Awareness and First Aid

Ever wondered what ambulance-based paramedics do at the scene of emergency, how they’re trained, and what’s inside an ER24 ambulance? Marina Maartins, a Basic Life Support (BLS) medic at ER24 Lowveld, explains.

Swift and expert emergency medical response can mean the difference between life and death.

ER24’s highly skilled paramedic teams provide on-scene, immediate care, with swift transportation for patients in state-of-the-art ambulances.

What’s inside an ER24 ambulance?

ER24 ambulances are equipped with the latest medical devices and consumables and can function as anything from basic life support vehicles to high-tech ICU. Having both manual and automated equipment onboard ensures functional equipment is always on hand – inverters are also available to charge batteries. From bedside monitors to ECG machines to syringe drivers that control medication flow, all equipment is new generation and serviced regularly. Team members receive ongoing training on the use of equipment. High-tech communication and tracking devices are also on all vehicles.

Stretchers are secured with brackets inside the ambulance and straps keep patients as safe as possible. A manually operated Kendrick extrication device (KED) is available to extract patients from car accidents. ER24 ambulances must comply with Emergency Medical Services regulations and are inspected annually to maintain their operating licence.

What happens on a scene?

Immediate on-scene care is vital, as paramedics work to “preserve, prevent and promote” – the three Ps of first aid: Preserve life; Prevent deterioration; Promote recovery. “Paramedics use advanced equipment and techniques to assess the patient’s vitals and condition. If necessary, they’re then transported to appropriate facilities for further management and care,” says Maartins.

On an accident scene, for example, the most senior paramedic on scene rapidly assesses the situation, setting up a triage where patients are labelled in different categories according to the severity of their conditions. Hospital colour codes and grading systems are used – from green (P3 –the least serious) to red (P1 – the most serious). Deceased patients are known as blue codes.

Eyes on patients

On-scene emergency care ensures the best possible patient outcomes for medical or trauma-related emergencies, says Maartins. “We always look at ABCs – Airway, Breathing, Circulation. You only have around four minutes before your brain suffers permanent damage without oxygen. Your heart needs constant oxygenation, as without it, it cannot beat. This means nothing else in your body can function.”

When a major artery is severed, you bleed out within as little as 30 seconds, says Maartins. “That’s why we have intravenous fluids aboard the vehicle to maintain blood pressure and replace lost fluids. But the quicker you can get your patient to an appropriate facility the better.” Sometimes critical patients must be airlifted out to speed up travel time.

“Ambulance care means always having eyes on patients, assessing the monitors, being aware of how patients look, react, and talk, their breathing, and the way they move, to ensure they remain stable until you can hand them over to the Emergency Department. Their condition can change in the blink of an eye.”

What training must ER24 paramedics complete?

Emergency care personnel must be registered at the Health Professions Council of South Africa in one of six registers. These are:

  1. Basic Ambulance Assistant (BAA). This training is no longer available.
  2. Ambulance Emergency Assistant (AEA). This training is no longer available.
  3. Emergency Care Assistant (ECA) – a one-year full-time course.
  4. Emergency Care Technician (ECT) – a two-year full-time course.
  5. ANT Paramedic – includes Critical Care Assistant and National Diploma in Emergency Care that has now been replaced with the Diploma in Emergency Medical Care – a two-year full-time course.
  6. Emergency Care Practitioner (ECP) – a four-year Bachelor’s degree.

“You can either complete a certificate, diploma or degree, ranging from one to four years of study,” says Maartins. “You’re given the theoretical knowledge, but you also do practicals in ambulances and hospital environments.” Because they work closely with fire departments and off-road rescue services, ECAs, ECTs and ECPs are qualified to perform rescue and extrication (removing entrapped patients on the scene of an emergency).

ER24 paramedics undergo additional training throughout the year, including extra online training throughout their service to ensure they’re up to date with the newest technologies and changes in the healthcare profession.

ER24 strives to remain in the foreground of new technology, providing the best possible ambulance care.

Call ER24 on 084 124 for real help, real fast in an emergency.