Need for dependable emergency medical services system cited

A HOUSE leader has underscored the need to create a robust and dependable emergency medical services system (EMSS) as the country continues to battle the coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19).

House Deputy Majority Leader and Las Piñas City Rep. Camille Villar filed House Bill (HB) 5788, which seeks to establish, institutionalize and strengthen an EMSS throughout the nation.

In her explanatory note, Villar said EMSS would constitute the comprehensive policy framework governing the provision of emergency medicine (EM) in each of the country’s local government units (LGUs).

"Emergency medicine is a specialized discipline in the medical field focused on giving timely and coordinated health and safety services to victims of sudden illness or injury, prior to them reaching hospitals, health centers or other brick-and-mortar healthcare facilities,"

Villar explained.

Villar stressed creating more facilities would provide quality EM against the deadly virus.

"According to data cited at the 2013 Asian Conference on Emergency Medicine, the Philippines only has 3,300 recognized Emergency Medical Service (EMS) personnel. And out of a reported 1,795 hospitals in the country, only 200 (or 11 percent) can be considered 'emergency hospitals'—that is, facilities that are capable of providing quality EM care," she bared.

"There's still so much we don't know about COVID-19 as far as treatment is concerned. But having a strong EMSS in the background can help save lives and ease the public's paranoia on this new virus. As with any viral infection, the first few hours is always important and this bill ensures that we have the infrastructure to respond to it," said Villar.

The bill mandates the creation of the National EMSS Advisory Committee, to be co-chaired by the Department of Health (DoH) and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG).

The committee will be tasked to establish a nationwide EMS network.

The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) is also called on to develop a working system for a national emergency number, such as the 911 emergency hotline rolled out under the Duterte administration.

Under the proposed Act, local government units shall create their own Dispatch Centers with adequate and qualified personnel. The Dispatch Centers shall follow the prescribed guidelines on dispatch protocol.

"All LGUs shall establish their respective Command Centers with designated qualified EMS medical director.  Command Centers shall govern the EMS systems based on the prescribed operational guidelines.

The Command Center can be co-located with the Dispatch Center," Villar said in her bill.

Moreover, HB 5788 ensures the availability of emergency transport vehicle or ambulance with qualified EMS personnel.

Responders shall follow the prescribed guidelines on emergency response and care.

The measure shall follow the prescribed guidelines of the DoH on Ambulance Services.

The Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PHIC) shall provide coverage for EMS subject to their policies and guidelines.