Singapore

Fire fighters roped in to help victims of cardiac arrest

From next year, fire trucks may be racing ahead of ambulances to help victims of cardiac arrest.

Given that they are usually the first to arrive at the scene of an emergency, fire fighters will be roped in to help save lives, and more than 300 have been certified as emergency medical technicians.

This means they have learnt high-performance cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on top of basic first aid. It is a method that uses a larger team working simultaneously to perform CPR faster and more effectively.

It is among several new measures to improve the emergency treatment of cardiac arrest victims, nearly four in five of whom now die.

The Singapore Civil Defence Force and Singapore General Hospital (SGH) will be implementing the new measures over a four-year period.

Currently, an ambulance takes an average of 11 minutes to reach the scene. A fire bike usually gets to the destination in half the time.

Under the new protocol, the bike will be joined by a fire truck, estimated to reach the scene within eight minutes, with four trained firefighters on board.

Together with paramedics, the respondents will form a "Formula One team that works together to ensure everything is done in less time," said Professor Marcus Ong, a senior consultant at the department of emergency medicine at SGH.

Another change is to rely less on computers to assess whether a victim needs defibrillation, in which a machine is used to assess the need for a dose of electric current to the heart. Paramedics will now do a manual assessment, which is quicker.

Lastly, a new type of injection to correct life-threatening heart rhythms will be introduced.

Some 250 paramedics will be trained in the three new interventions.

MEDICAL & HEALTH