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Patient transport outside capital considered dangerous

The leader of the National Association of Fire Fighters and Emergency Rescue Workers, Vernhard Gudnason, has expressed harsh criticism of patient transport outside the capital region, claiming patients’ lives are on the line due to poor service.

“People have experienced very difficult situations where only one emergency rescue worker (EMT) is called to the scene and is responsible for transporting severely ill and injured people,” Gudnason told Fréttabladid. “Under such circumstances it is not possible for him or her to care for the patients and their lives are in jeopardy.”

Gudnason wrote in his editorial in the most recent issue of Slökkvilidsmadurinn, his association’s magazine, that there is only one EMT available for each emergency in Borgarnes, west Iceland, and the surrounding countryside where the country’s largest summerhouse settlement is located.

In his article, Gudnason mentioned an incident where one man had been responsible for transporting a severely ill patient from the most remote area on Snaefellsnes peninsula to a hospital in Reykjavík, about 200 km.

Kristinn Jónasson, the mayor of Snaefellsbaer municipality, supports Gudnason’s criticism. “We consider it serious that one man is responsible for transporting patients such a long way. Not much has to happen for it to go wrong.”

Jónasson explained the problem lies with the meager financial support that health services outside the capital region receive. Money is reserved for patient transport, but not every item is taken into account for the total cost. “Therefore we have to prioritize.”

According to recent research undertaken by the Patient Transport Academy in Iceland, the level of education of EMTs in the countryside is much lower than among those in the capital region.

The research also revealed that dozens of people are working as EMTs in east Iceland without having finished the basic education in patient transport.

Gudnason said the education offered to EMTs in the countryside has improved in recent years but that there is a lack of interest in the subject, which is why unskilled people are hired.

“People don’t want to work in the environment they are offered,” Gudnason claimed. “Who wants to be called out to a difficult situation knowing that he or she can’t provide the necessary services for the sick or injured? Who wants to live with the fact that a life was lost that could have been saved under normal circumstances?”

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