DUBAI // It's a situation ambulance drivers see and medical personnel hear of, all too often:
"As we were driving, an ambulance was honking trying to make its way through the traffic," SSI Quadrie, the general manager of marketing at PRIME Medical Centre recalled, speaking of an incident last year. "The cars were not giving way and the ambulance was struggling to get through."
Cases like that one inspired officials at Prime to launch an initiative to educate the public about the need to give way to ambulances.
Dr Jamil Ahmed, an orthopaedic surgeon and director at PRIME, said that some motorists do not even attempt to give way.
"The main objective of this campaign is to create an awareness that a rushing ambulance means someone's life is in danger and a motorist can help save that life by giving way … so that there is no delay in the treatment," Dr Ahmed said.
Recognising what is at stake - life or death - Dr Ahmed and Mr Quadrie decided to approach the Dubai Corporation for Ambulance Services and the safety awareness department at the Dubai police. Both responded with great interest and the "Give Way to Ambulance" campaign was launched.
Dr Omar al Sakaf, the technical support director and a consultant at the Dubai Corporation for Ambulance Services, said that many motorists try to take advantage of passing ambulances by following them so that they may reach their destination quickly. "This only creates more trouble and more accidents," he said.
The campaign's aim, he said, "is to reduce the response time and save lives. If an ambulance is transporting an individual who just suffered a heart attack, for example, it needs to reach the hospital in less than five minutes and that is not possible when other vehicles are blocking the way."
The multilingual one-week campaign, which began last Monday, involved the distribution of informative leaflets at public car parks and 15 shopping malls in Dubai. Promoters dressed in specially designed caps and T-shirts also distributed flyers from ambulance displays in shopping centres.
"Put yourself in their shoes. Imagine you had a family member or a beloved one in that ambulance - you'd want them to receive medical care as soon as possible," Dr al Sakaf said.