By Poly Pantelides
A LETTER addressed to lawmakers by paramedics trained as part of shelved plans to set up regional ambulance stations, says two people recently died while waiting for an ambulance to arrive.
Signed by the head of the paramedics Michalis Savva, the letter to the House President and the House committees on health and finance, explains why the paramedics would be protesting outside of parliament tomorrow.
When deputies were told in May the much-needed and long delayed new regional ambulance stations would not be going ahead because of austerity measures, they said they were worried lives would be put at risk.
The hiring freeze in the public sector, including that of the 49 newly-trained paramedics, means the ambulance stations earmarked for Klirou, Limassol centre, Oroklini and Peyia cannot operate unless the finance ministry asks lawmakers for an exemption.
Two people recently died while waiting for over half an hour for an ambulance to arrive from Nicosia General Hospital because a recruitment freeze has shelved plans for new regional ambulance stations, Savva said.
The community leader of the Nicosia village of Klirou, one of the communities that expected to house an ambulance station, confirmed to the Cyprus News Agency it had taken an ambulance 38 minutes to arrive from Nicosia general hospital to the village square to respond to an emergency call. Nicos Alexandrakis said by the time the ambulance arrived, the man was dead..
“People are a bit frustrated with what they are witnessing,” he said.
Savva said another person lost his life in the Nicosia community of Arediou in what he described as the “same incident”.
Alexandrakis, who said he will be joining the paramedics’ protests, said that in previous meetings with the House health committee as well as the interior minister, they were told there was no money. But the paramedics are incredulous at the claim the roughly €340,000 a year it takes to hire the minimum necessary number of rescuers – 24 first-aid responders – cannot be found.
“Honour those who have raised you up [in parliament] and demand the operation of the new regional ambulance stations,” the paramedics’ letter said.
The rescuers who were trained to man the ambulances and the stations said communities may need to wait between 30 minutes and 45 minutes for an ambulance, compared with a 19-minute timeframe that is internationally accepted as a response target, Savva said. The UK’s national health service actually aims for the very demanding 8-minute response time for immediately life-threatening calls.