Ho Chi Minh City has become the first city in Vietnam to launch a motorbike emergency medical response service. Since its trial launch in early November, medical personnel have been reaching patients within five to ten minutes, even during heavily congested times.
Nguyen Khac Vui, Deputy Director of Saigon General Hospital, which manages the service, gave the service a positive review. According to Nguyen’s review of the service, the hospital has received 67 emergency calls since its launch, and dispatched motorbikes in 26 instances. Of the 26 instances, nine patients were treated on the spot, while 17 were given first aid and taken to hospital by ambulance.
Nguyen said of the service that: "The motorcycle ambulances’ maneuverability is ideal for patients living in small alleys and during rush hour. The service ensures patients get access to doctors as quickly as possible.”
Nguyen added that: “People were initially surprised and perplexed at the motorbike emergency service but have come around and changed their minds. We’ve even had some people ask for a team of emergency doctors on motorbikes."
Motorcycle ambulances are not new, with the first ones used by the British, French and Americans during World War 1. Currently there are motorcycle ambulance services in many countries throughout the world, including in Asia – Hong Kong and Japan. Motorcycle ambulances have proven themselves effective in these countries even in heavily congested areas or in locations with narrow streets and lanes.
Ho Chi Minh City is seen as another ideal location for these emergency services because it shares the same characteristics of congested roads that make the dispatch of regular ambulances a slow process, as well as narrow lanes and roads that make access by a motorcycle much more practical.
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Other hospitals want to come on board
Dr. Tran Van Khanh, Director of the District 2 Hospital, has asked the city Department of Health to also deploy the service to his hospital. Dr. Tran said that the number of emergency calls to the hospital is increasing rapidly while there are many narrow alleys in its coverage area, not to mention frequent traffic jams, often rendering its three ambulances unsuitable.
According to Dr. Tran, "There are days when we don’t have any ambulance and doctors have to carry all their tools by taxi to the patient’s home, provide first aid and wait for the ambulance to arrive”
As well as the hospitals already mentioned, hospitals in District 1, District 4 and Thu Duc have also asked that the emergency services be expanded to their hospitals as soon as possible.
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Dr. Nguyen Minh Quan, Director of the Thu Duc District Hospital, told local media that his hospital gets more than 30 emergency calls every day but has only two ambulances.
According to the doctor, "The emergency needs are high, the traffic congestion is quite bad. So, when the medical crew arrives at the scene, people often complain about them arriving late."
Dr. Nguyen Duy Long, Director, 115 Emergency Center, said the goal is to reach people in need within 10 minutes, but the lack of satellite centers and traffic congestion prevent responders from reaching the scene quickly. The emergency motorcycle service provides the quickest access to patients, thus saving more lives.
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According to the department, within three weeks the two-wheeler model has shown the "advantages of quick and cost-effective arrival at the scene, and it could be of economic benefit in the long run." HCMC will continue the trial of the motorcycle ambulances for one to two months and will calculate the costs for the service before taking it city-wide.