Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Squad Cincuenta y Uno
I visited a Salvadorian health fair the other day. At the entrance were two brightly colored ambulances set out as a static display with all of their associated equipment laid out for the public to view. The two trucks looked brand spanking new and were marked "Emergency Advanced Cardiac". Of course I was attracted to this scene like a hungry trout to a fly and rushed right over and started digging around, much to the consternation of the women running the display.
A couple of bags of IV fluid, a ratty cot that was jerry-rigged to lock into floor of the truck, and an automatic defibrillator much like you see in the malls in the United States but wrapped in plastic. One of the physicians/nurses(?) asked if I wanted to stick my arm in the automatic blood pressure cuff to see "what my number was" to determine how healthy I am. Really!!?
I'll admit that the ambulances from the outside were immaculate and very impressive, clearly nicer than what I'm used to in Atlanta, but given what they lacked in equipment would not even be allowed on the streets in the United States or Europe. This is typical of much of the third world, parts of Latin America specifically; bright, shinny things that give the appearance of competency but with little or no substance underneath. Someone invested a lot of money in a couple of spiffy ambulances but decided the capability or reason for them was secondary. Why not take the same money and purchase the needed lifesaving equipment and stick it all on an old, beat-up ambulance? If I'm a seriously sick patient I don't care how nice the truck looks, only that I'm getting an advanced level of care in the back.
Maybe I'm being too critical. Maybe they have all of drugs, monitors, airway kits, ultrasound, and other gadgets but just chose not to put them out on public display. Having spent most of my life in and out of this part of the world and having worked in it's ERs…. I doubt it. My regret was that I didn't take any pictures of the trucks to show my fellow medics in Atlanta. They were seriously impressive.