Paramedics not keen on young observers

Letting teenagers ride in ambulances during emergencies is not a good idea, a union says, asking Fire Services Department to change plan

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 June, 2013, 9:46am
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 August, 2013, 4:13am

A union has urged the government to rethink a plan to let young people go into ambulances and observe the work of paramedics.

It would be inappropriate for teenagers as young as 14 to witness unsettling scenes, and looking after them would increase the paramedics' workload, Wat Ki-on of the Ambulancemen's Union said on radio yesterday.

His comments came after the Fire Services Department said it planned to let 300 young people from 13 uniformed groups such as the Boy Scouts follow an ambulance worker for a day in August as part of the government's "Hong Kong Our Home" programme.

The project will last for two weeks, and applications were open last month.

The union said it did not know about the plan until last week, when members saw an application form. It said there had been projects allowing medical professionals to observe paramedics, but it would be the first time people of such a young age with no relevant knowledge accompanied them in an ambulance.

Wat said the job of a paramedic could be dangerous because the worker could be in the centre of a big disaster and often encountered gruesome scenes.

It was not possible to ignore the safety of the young person on board. "The person-in-charge needs to ensure everyone's safety," he said.

He said the department should come up with another plan that would not affect the paramedics' work.

A caller to the radio show described the plan as "moronic". He expressed concerned about the youngsters' safety because paramedics were sometimes assaulted by triad members while trying to help people who had been beaten up.

Another caller said the presence of a third party might invade the privacy of an injured person.

The department said it would consider modifying the plan after listening to opinions from its employees and the public.

Each ambulance was intended to host only one participant, who would be guided by a department volunteer, it said.

The observer must have a recommendation from the uniform group, and is required to attend briefings before joining the project. The person must also undergo training and would have to be psychologically capable of facing various situations, a spokesman said.

He said the department's volunteers would make sure the paramedics' work was not affected and would be responsible for the observer's safety.

It had told the uniformed groups the importance of respecting patients' privacy, including a ban on picture-taking.