Three-tier ambulance call plan may begin in 2013

PUBLISHED : Friday, 22 January, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 22 January, 2010, 12:00am

A proposed three-tier system for grading the urgency of ambulance calls may be implemented in 2013 and the Fire Services Department will submit a proposal to the Legislative Council for funding in two months.

Gregory Lo Chun-hung, the director of fire services, yesterday said the medical priority dispatch system had won wide support during a public consultation last year and the department would submit the implementation proposal to the Legislative Council in two months.

'The grading system is widely adapted in the United States, Britain and Australia, with almost 3,000 emergency call centres using it,' Lo said at a year-end briefing.

The department will ensure there is adequate public education and a trial run before the full implementation of the new system, he said.

Emergency calls will be categorised as 1, for critical or life-threatening cases; 2, for serious but non-life threatening cases; and 3, for non-acute cases. The proposed respective target response times are nine, 12, and 20 minutes.

Ambulance operators will ask clear, structured questions such as whether the patient is conscious and breathing, Lo said, and patients will be categorised under different response tiers according to these 'yes' or 'no' questions by computer.

Meanwhile, the Fire Services Department is looking at the feasibility of outsourcing ambulance maintenance services. Services are now provided by the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department, but a coroner has criticised the services as 'ineffective' and suggested that the Fire Services Department should 'change garages'.

With 113 new ambulances put into service last year and 83 this year, the average age of the ambulance fleet will drop to less than two years, from 4.7 years at the end of last year. Funds have been obtained to buy 21 new ambulances and create 120 ambulance positions.

The number of ambulance calls received last year rose 2.4 per cent from 643,611 to 659,289, an average of 1,806 calls a day.

Only 92 per cent of the callers received attention within 12 minutes, which is short of the 92.5 per cent benchmark set by the department.

The number of fire services calls received last year rose slightly to 35,771 - an average of 98 calls a day - from 35,513.

With a view to strengthening the ability in handling hazardous materials incidents and terrorist attacks, the department plans to set up a HazMat Task Force this year. About 500 firemen will receive training on tackling hazardous materials incidents.

All the 2,300 ambulance personnel are provided with a smart orange-coloured jacket with silver reflective strips this year, which can help to alert road users when the officers conduct their duties on roads and highways.

Firemen will start wearing a new Goretex cap, which is more comfortable and convenient compared with the current beret.

Twenty-four emergency medical assistant motorcycles with more powerful engines will be put into service this month.

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The number of ambulance calls received last year increased 2.4 per cent from 643,611 to: 659,289