My rating: 5 of 5 stars
It’s funny how clueless we can be when it comes to the way other countries do things that we in the first world take for granted. I thought all ambulance services were basically the same, with only tiny differences between adoption of new drugs or new techniques, perhaps a doctor on this one but not on that one. But I guarantee I will never see ambulances used to transport live goats and butchered meat to the poor in Australia like they do in Pakistan, home to the world’s largest private ambulance service.
Time and time again my eyes were opened reading Paramedico.
From South Africa where anything but a five-minute-scene-time is a fail (no matter what the injury, and closely monitored by stony-faced supervisors with stopwatches); to Macedonia where an elderly dehydrated and weak patient can be left at home on a drip with instructions on how to remove his own cannula; to Mexico where an elderly patient can break every bone in her body after being hit by a high speed car but gets no pain relief (but does get a ride to hospital filled with delays and jarring bumps).
Ambulance ‘drivers’ in London who spend their work days transporting wealthy people to doctor’s appointments. Venetian paramedics who can’t give CPR because it just doesn’t work on a little boat. A Pakistani ED that miraculously clears in only a few hours after nineteen dead and fifty injured in a gruesome suicide bomb attack.
And the different work ethics! Honestly they’re like something from a grim, dark comedy – drinking strong spirits on the job, strapping a colleague to a stretcher and dousing her in cold water for her birthday, jumping on each other in a huge pile, or selling gory photos to journalists; at the same time as some working 48 hour shifts, or dealing with ten or twenty gunshot murders in a shift. That’s TEN or TWENTY. Gunshot murders. Per shift.
Equipment is hard to come by in many countries: some crews have to carefully ration their disposable latex gloves, many don’t have drugs – not even the drugs that revert a cardiac arrest.
But perhaps my favourite eye-opener was how various control centres around the world treat their patients. In Macedonia call-takers abuse callers for ‘not being sick or injured enough’ and slam the phones down. In Pakistan, numbers are barred after a hoax call. A world away from the ‘every caller wins an ambulance’ of Australia.
If you like having your eyes opened, if you like learning about how tough others have it without actually having to experience it, then this is a must-read. The only bad thing I have to say is that the section on Pakistan went on for too long – but there was an awful lot to tell there, so I get how that can happen.