Ambulance response times improving in the Northern Emirates
National Ambulance has stepped up efforts to reach remote areas more efficiently
Ambulance response times in the Northern Emirates are continuing to improve thanks to a plan to reach remote locations more easily.
Five years ago, National Ambulance reorganised its services for the Northern Emirates – covering Ras Al Khaimah, Umm Al Quwain, Ajman, Sharjah and Fujairah.
Average response times for patients stood at 18 minutes and 12 seconds when the dedicated service was introduced on February 24, 2014, but these fell to eight minutes and 56 seconds just two years later.
More potentially life-saving seconds have been shaved off since, with ambulances coming to the aid of those in need in an average time of eight minutes and 29 seconds.
Ahmed Alhajeri, chief executive of National Ambulance, says the main challenges the service faced over the past five years were obtaining precise location details, changing street names and language barriers in the UAE’s multi-cultural society.
“When we began operations in the Northern Emirates, we had a lot to prove. The latest figures highlight how far we have come in overcoming the challenges we faced,” Mr Alhajeri says.
“Driving in the Northern Emirates is different. So instead of having one paramedic deal with a certain situation, we divided the teams into tiers, so the most experienced and knowledgeable of the area guides the rest.”
Call operators also developed more efficient ways to quickly guide ambulances to their destinations.
“For remote or inaccessible areas we started saving location maps in advance and sharing it between the staff so they can all use it,” says Audai Masadeh, a shift leader at the National Ambulance communication centre.
“We also keep upgrading the maps on the website and train our new employees on locations,” he says.
Noora Aljanaahi, an emergency medical technician in Fujairah, says the public play an important role in guiding ambulance teams to patients.
“We were once on our way to a case and as we were about to arrive they told us that he has already been transferred in a private car,” she says.
“Then the locals started communicating with the person driving the car to guide us to them.”
Ambulance officials have also started taking the initiative, sending ambulances to areas where they are more likely to be needed.
“Instead of keeping 50 ambulances at the station, we take them to busy areas and [places] where critical accidents may happen, like Jebel Jais in winter for instance,” Mr Alhajeri says.
While important progress on response times has been made, more work remains to be done.
Mohammed Al Shahhi, from Ghalilah village, 30 kilometres from Ras Al Khaimah city, says it can take an ambulance unit up to 60 minutes to reach the area.
“Two months ago my uncle fainted and we called the emergency line. It took them one hour to arrive,” he says.
“They kept telling us what to do over the phone but it took them too much time to arrive.
“There is a hospital nearby but in some cases we can’t do anything unless the ambulance arrives, therefore, we need an ambulance station nearby to respond faster to any emergency call.”
Saif Al Mazroui, a resident of Wadi Kub – a mountainous area 40km away from Ras Al Khaimah city – says an ambulance used to take about 30 to 40 minutes to arrive but response times have improved.
“It’s very important to have an ambulance station nearby and I recently saw one ambulance parked at Al Taween police station, which is 10 minutes away from the village, so that means it will not take long to reach us in case of an emergency,” Mr Al Mazroui says.
“It used to take 30 to 40 minutes for the ambulance to arrive and another 30 minutes to reach the nearest hospital and that would affect the health condition of the patient or injured person,” he says.
According to figures released by National Ambulance, they now receive 149.5 per cent more calls than when the service began in 2014.
Updated: March 3, 2019 03:16 PM