It is indeed very disturbing to read frequent news reports of ambulances getting involved in nasty road accidents in the country. Some of these ambulance related accidents have turned out to be tragic and fatal.
I welcome the announcement by the health minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam, that all newly purchased ambulances by his ministry will be installed with a speed limiter – a device to prevent drivers from speeding. (The Star, Dec 16, “New Ambulances To Have Speed Limit”.)
The proposed speed-limit device may be a good idea to ensure ambulance drivers do not go too fast. However, instead of waiting for new ambulances to arrive, I suggest if it is practical to install the speed limit gadget in all ambulances that are currently in service.
Apart from installing a speed-limit device in ambulances it is equally important to focus on the right and effective model of training for our ambulance drivers so that they can carry out their duties and conduct themselves in a professional manner.
I believe with a well designed professional training programme we should be able to motivate and mould our ambulance drivers with the right skills, knowledge and attitude for the job. In this context I urge the authorities to review (if there is already one in existence) the ambulance drivers’ training curriculum to meet the modern day medical emergency complexities and challenges.
An ambulance driver’s job must not be equated with any ordinary vehicle driver. They deserve special attention from us, as they are part of the life-saving team. They need special training to be always on the alert and skillful in handling the ambulance on busy roads to ensure the safety of the patients and medical staff on board.
We need to standardise our ambulance drivers’ (public and private) training curriculum in the country. Ideally, an ambulance driver operator safety curriculum should be in place.
Ambulance drivers should be required to pass the above special safety programme before they are allowed to operate an ambulance full time. Ad hoc training modules for ambulance drivers are not that effective and suitable for the present day medical emergency needs.
Annual random health and drug/alcohol abuse screening should also be in place for ambulance drivers.
The entry requirement, emoluments, promotion prospects for ambulance drivers should also be reviewed to boost the image of the profession.