Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : November 2nd 2014 Contents A6
Sunday Guardian www.guardian.co.tt November 2, 2014
Long waiting time for ambu-
lances and lack of courtesy and care
extended to ailing patients by
ambulance attendants were just
two of several complaints members
of the public have been voicing to
the Ministry of Health with regard
to the country s ambulance serv-
ice.To get to the root cause of the
verbal complaints, Chief Medical
Officer Dr Colin Furlonge said the
ministry may soon audit the Global
Medical Response of T&T
(GMRTT)---the company contracted
by the ministry to provide emergency
ambulance services. Furlonge said
so when asked if the ministry was
satisfied with the level of service
provided by GMRTT.
"At the ministry level, we have
been extremely disappointed because
of the complaints we have had with
regard to the ambulance service,"
Furlonge said in a telephone inter-
view last week.
However, CEO of GMRTT Paul
Anderson said the nine years they
have been in operation, he was not
aware of any complaints by Health
Minister Dr Fuad Khan about the
He said GMRTT also conducts
surveys every month on 50 of its
clients to gauge its performance and
"We question them (clients) about
their level of satisfaction and if our
attendants acted professionally. And
for the nine last years, every month,
we received 96 to 98 per cent sat-
'One to six hours to
remove patients from
Anderson said the delay in service
was not caused by its ambulances
failing to respond to emergency cases
in a timely manner, but to the long
wait at the hospitals.
Anderson said GMRTT s biggest
challenge was the length of time the
hospitals take to get patients out of
its stretchers and into the health care
"That is a procedure that should
take at least 15 to 20 minutes. It takes
over an hour and in some cases, it
takes sometimes six hours. That
delay is caused by the incapacity of
the health facility...the staffing, the
unavailability of beds and so on.
When that starts to backlog, it
impairs our ability to respond to the
next case. I know they are sensitive
to it because it is something that
has reached their attention contin-
uously. They won t be surprised to
hear me speaking about that,"
Anderson said in defence of the serv-
ice they provide.
As the national emergency medical
service provider, GMRTT uses a
combination of station-based and
roving ambulance deployment
strategies to ensure people receive
safe, reliable, and prompt response
to their medical emergency.
Furlonge: Some reports
Furlonge said while some of the
complaints may be frivolous and
unfounded, others often give the
ministry reason to worry.
He said because of the high
demand for the service, an ambu-
lance may not respond in a timely
"It is a matter of understanding
that when it comes to health, the
better service you provide, more
people call for it. And then that kind
of effect takes place when demand
starts to exceed supply. All the hos-
pitals in the world...the best hospitals
get the most patients to deal with
because people make choices."
On October 20, a fresh complaint
was reported in the print media
when mentally ill patient Melville
McIntyre, a resident of the Centre
for Socially Displaced Persons at
Riverside car park, East Dry River,
Port-of-Spain, was refused ambu-
McIntyre, 37, an outpatient of St
Ann s Hospital, jumped to his death
from the building s first floor after
facing a relapse.
The centre s manager, Roger Wat-
son said under normal circumstances
an ambulance would be called to
pick up mentally ill patients and take
them to St Ann s, but when calls are
made no ambulances are sent.
Told about ambulances refusing
to pick up mentally ill patients, Fur-
longe said, "We are trying to get
information to clarify if that is accu-
rate. If it is, we would investigate
that very seriously since it is a serious
Furlonge said if information
reaches the ministry that ambulances
are turning down patients, they
would deal with the matter "very
Anderson: GMRTT to
increase its ambulance fleet
in the coming months
In the last few weeks, Anderson
said GMRTT has been in discussion
with the ministry to help improve
its ambulance service through a
Anderson said they are trying to
hammer out an agreement so
GMRTT can increase its ambulances
from 38 to at least 60 in the coming
A few weeks ago, Anderson said,
ten new ambulances were added to
its fleet of 28.
Instead of the ministry sourcing
and supplying the ambulances,
Anderson said they are seeking to
take on this responsibility.
"Considering the size of Trinidad,
38 ambulances does not sound ade-
quate. And we are as busy as TTPS
and far busier than the Fire Serv-
Anderson said when he compared
the T&T Police Service s 5,000-plus
vehicles and the Fire Services fleet
to what the GMRTT has, there is a
GMRTT receives on average 180
emergency calls daily, Anderson said.
Most of the calls come in before
and after work hours.
"It is not uncommon to have 40
to 50 cases in one hour."
Anderson said GMRTT has
responded to 65,000 emergency
medical services cases up to the
month of August.
By the end of October, an addi-
tional 10,000 cases would have to
be added to this figure.
"So for 2014, we have responded
to 65,000 to 75,000 cases. We pro-
vide prompt and good service,"
Paramedics to administer
medical procedures, drugs
to patients at home
Anderson said GMRTT also has
a long-term strategy---to train para-
medics where they can undertake
basic medical procedures and admin-
ister drugs to the patients at home
rather than taking them to the hos-
"This is how the industry is mov-
ing globally...it is to create a capacity
where a person s medical needs can
be taken care of in their home or
wherever they may be, than being
transported to the hospital. This will
help ease the backlog of patients at
hospitals and help us. It will be a
better outcome for patients."
Insisting that the demand for
health care in T&T has been increas-
ing because of the growth in non-
communicable diseases, Anderson
said no one has complained to the
GMRTT that ambulances are refus-
ing to pick up mentally ill patients.
"That is not to say that it is not
true. But we have a very strict policy.
If someone calls 811 we respond."
Anderson said employees of
GMRTT would have to be very cre-
ative to bypass their system.
'Long waiting time,
no courtesy or care'
Citizens lament poor ambulance service...
In an e-mail on Tuesday, UNC so-
cial and political activist Phillip
Alexander stated that he has
begun an unofficial campaign "on
our almost non-existent and de-
plorable ambulance service."
Alexander's campaign has been
based on highlighting the issue and
sending messages complete with
patient horror stories, including the
views of onlookers on social media
to the entire Cabinet, including Min-
ister of Health Dr Fuad Khan.
"Sadly, to date, nothing has been
done, said or acknowledged on the
issue by the Minister of Health or
anyone else in Government, despite
the cost to life and survival of citi-
Alexander believes that this is an
important national issue and the
public should campaign against the
poor service until the matter is ad-
Three weeks ago, Alexander said
the father of one of his son's
friends died after waiting 45 min-
utes for an ambulance in Diego
"A Member of Parliament con-
fided that he had to take his
mother to the hospital himself as
the ambulance they had called
seemed to be taking forever and
she was in dire need of treatment.
This seems to be one of those is-
sues that you do not know how
bad it is until you need it and find
out to your peril, that the concept
of an essential service that you had
in your mind simply does not exist."
Alexander urged citizens to get
in touch with him or share their ex-
periences on his Facebook page. "It
is time to gather the statistics that
we do not now know and add them
to the rest of the horror stories."
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