How do you know whether to call an emergency medical service, proceed to hospital yourself or see your doctor or a clinic nurse?

How do you know whether to call an emergency medical service, proceed to hospital yourself or see your doctor or a clinic nurse?

It can be a tough decision to make.  A basic rule of thumb is that if the person needs immediate treatment out of hospital or on the way to hospital, then it is best to call an emergency medical service. If bouncing around in the family car en route to hospital is going to cause harm or pain to the patient, then contact an emergency medical service.  


Don’t be afraid to phone for any medical emergency, that is what paramedics do – attend to out of hospital medical emergencies, stabilise patients and then transport them to hospital for further treatment.  If you don’t feel it is necessary for the person to go to hospital, then it is probably unlikely that an emergency medical service is required. The situation can wait until the doctor or clinic opens.

If you have your own vehicle and can transport someone safely then you can do so.  Going by ambulance does not change the waiting time at the hospital, as all patients are triaged and assigned a colour code depending on the nature of their illness or injury, and this is what determines their waiting time.

What paramedics and emergency medical services are not is doctors doing house visits or wound care nurses.  Nursing care is specialised care, and is not in the scope of our training. We are also not doctors.

We are trained to deal with life threatening emergencies, severe pain, recently inflicted injuries and serious medical conditions where stabilisation is needed on the way to hospital.

Paramedics offer so much more than driving ambulances and putting on plasters, ice packs and bandages.  However, we can’t prescribe antibiotics for your infection. We don’t offer nursing services and we don’t offer what a visit to your GP offers.

If you can apply first aid and use your car or catch a taxi to hospital, there is no need to contact an emergency medical service to assist you.  However, if you are concerned that the incident is more serious or needs immediate attention, please don’t hesitate to phone. We will not be upset, we do love to help.  Our only concern with calls that aren’t emergencies is that a call may come in for someone who needs urgent attention, and we can’t get there while we put a plaster onto your child’s stubbed toe or press a piece of gauze on the pin prick hole caused by a lap dog’s nip which was called in as a savage attack by a pack of dogs.

Sometimes however, you apply first aid and manage to stop the blood spurting or flowing but can only just hold it at bay, or it is still going, or someone is having difficulty breathing or experiencing chest pains or you suspect a stroke or there has been a motor vehicle collision or a pedestrian knocked down or someone impaled on a garden implement or an allergic reaction or someone is having a seizure or a diabetic emergency, or a drowning, or someone is giving birth unexpectedly – and there can never be an exhaustive list – then phone an emergency medical service.  The patient will be stabilised and transported to hospital – and we will get there as fast as we safely can.

Although it can feel like hours while you await an emergency response, it is likely only a few minutes.  However, ambulances are not sitting waiting at hospitals for calls to come in. They are out on the road continually moving from patient to patient and taking patients to hospital.  When multiple calls come in, the paramedics are sent to the most urgent call first and the next urgent patient is only able to be attended to when that call is completed or another medic becomes available after their last call.

Community Medics is able to respond promptly to emergencies, as our medics volunteer in the communities in which they live.  Our response time is on average under 8 minutes, which is in line with first world countries response times.

We don’t duplicate what other services do, our dispatchers answer the call, take down pertinent details and location, then dispatch a Community Medics member and then contact all other necessary resources for that patient and keep them updated according to what our medic on scene updates them with.  We don’t transport patients ourselves, but we do have service level agreements with private and government services to ensure that patients are transported when necessary. When other services are busy and a patient needs urgent medical assistance, they will call on Community Medics to treat and stabilise the patient until they can arrive.   The teamwork between emergency medical and rescue services in the greater Cape Town area is something to be proud of. As Community Medics, we are honoured to be part of this.

Community Medics members are HPCSA registered and have the same qualifications as medics working on ambulances.

Contact us on 087 230 0404 for medical emergencies.

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