Sunday, 12 July 2009

Safe as Houses

The story of the paramedic who waited outside an address for a considerable amount of time has caused a great deal of outrage amongst the general public. Although the story is a few days old, it has still led to me being asked by several relatives and friends over the weekend what I think about it all. First - three disclaimers:
a) I don't know the whole story, I probably never will.
b) I'm truly sorry for the family of the patient involved, they have lost a loved one, and will never know whether those few minutes made all the difference.
c) The story's not been helped by certain media outlets twisting the facts to suit their own headlines. Truth, apparently, should never be allowed to get in the way of a money making opportunity.
Sometimes, we're stuck between a rock and a hard place. At what point does an open door go from being a welcome sight to being a warning sign? At what point does a normal family home change from a haven of hospitality to a hovel of hostility? At what point does a paramedic say that personal safety comes before patient safety?
The answer to the third question is theoretically easy. Always. Theoretically.
However, we are forever taking calculated risks, especially so, if, like the paramedic in this case (and me), you are a solo responder. We're forever walking into volatile situations. Sometimes with no prior knowledge, sometimes with some sort of forewarning. The mere fact that we are responding to emergency situations means that we're not walking into a normal family surrounding. People react differently when they're under stress, unpredictably so. It's part of our job to accept that, deal with it, and fully expect to be met by a barrage of different emotions. In the vast majority of cases we just get on and do our job, sometimes at great personal risk.
Despite all of the above, if I, or any other paramedic felt that our life was at risk, I would fully expect the patient to take second place. I don't know why the paramedic in our story felt so at risk, but I fully support his decision. After all, if he'd have walked in and disturbed a burglary, then his previous patient may well have been his last one. A life lost is tragic. Two lives lost would have been more so.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

it's interesting that when you do a cpr class the first thing you are taught about, even before abc is your own safety. if its not safe to go ahead and treat the patient then it becomes irrsponsible to do it anyway. unfortunatley this is not really known outside the medical community and as a result this paramedic will probably be blamed for a long time to come by the family, which although is a harsh decison is completely understandable when grief is involved and also by the press because, as you said ben, anything to sell a paper.

the heroes of the emergency services and nhs in the eyes of the press are always gonna be wrong whatever the facts are.