Free ambulance service to expand coverage
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In case of emergency, it may not be advisable to hail a cab or drive to the nearest hospital in the city’s horrendous traffic, especially when other passengers likely know nothing of administering first aid.
But that may not be the case with a new emergency ambulance service, provided by the Jakarta Health Agency.
Jakarta ID card-holders can dial a toll free number — 118 — to get first aid services from medical staff while on the way to hospital.
Since July 1, the agency has made the Emergency Ambulance 118 service, which previously charged patients Rp 200,000 (US$21) for an ambulance request, free.
“The emergency service is now free of charge so that more Jakartans can get the best emergency service and so that poor residents can easily access it,” Ambulance 118’s director John Marbun told The Jakarta Post in a recent interview.
Emergency Ambulance 118’s (AGD118) history dates back to 1969 when the Association of Indonesian Surgeons came up with an idea to provide public ambulances to aid people in need. Following the idea, Ambulance 118 was then set up in 1971 with the support of the local government. Deeming the service as important for Jakartans’ greater good, the Jakarta Health Agency took over the service’s management in 2007.
A fleet of 51 fully equipped vans are now readied at eight posts in five municipalities and at Ambulance 118 pools in Sunter, North Jakarta; Kuningan, South Jakarta; and Merdeka Square in Central Jakarta.
“We will expand our coverage area to 20 posts by the end of this year in order to expedite access to potential users in need,” said Marbun.
Each ambulance was manned by two medical technicians able to both provide first aid and drive the ambulance, as they had been trained to drive defensively, Marbun said.
“We have also upgraded more than 170 ambulance operators and also our call operators every three to six months. We’ve trained them in standard first aid skills such as BTCLS [basic trauma cardiac life support] to service excellence and effective communication, so that the safety and comfort of patients are ensured,” he said, adding that the employees had just finished a course in human resource development.
Such skills are deemed necessary as ambulance medical staff are likely to meet people in stressful situations with tendencies to panic.
“In such situations, we have to keep calm and try to divert their attention by talking about the diseases and applying the necessary treatments,” medical technician Andi Mardiana, 29, said.
As Jakarta’s traffic was unpredictable, Andi said that she often faced panicking and angry customers who nagged over the ambulance being delayed.
“But thanks to our call operators, who keep our customers up to speed on the location of ambulances while relaying first aid directives, most people are calmer once we arrive to pick up a patient.”
Operators also have to deal with prank calls.
“I can answer a hundred calls every day during my 12-hour shift and only around 30 of them are serious calls,” said Yessy, 32.
Yessy explained that the calls coming in were mostly silent prank calls or callers who had mistook the number as state-owned telecommunication company PT Telkom’s information center, 108.
People’s unfamiliarity with the service could be one reason why requests for ambulances have remained the same.
According to Ambulance 118 data, ambulance requests did not show a significant increase in July even after the service became free, with there being 700 requests each month since January.
Marbun said that Ambulance 118 was considering changing to a new toll number — probably 119 — with PT Telkom in a hope of reducing prank and wrong number calls. (aml)