inem ambulance

Accident victim loses leg following ambulance to-ing and fro-ing confusion

“No one knows if outcome could have been different”, admits firefighter commander

“The worst case scenario has confirmed itself, The right leg of forestry sapper Eduardo Ferrão, aged 50, has been amputated in Viseu Hospital where he remains interned”.

This is the opening paragraph today of a story in Correio da Manhã referring to the confusing case of ambulance to-ing and fro-ing, highlighted by Expresso, in which a man with an angle-grinder lodged into his leg ended up being taken back and forth along the same road, before being properly treated in hospital.

The issue at the nub of this case is that INEM (medical emergency service) insists that doctors on duty during this drama (one in the central CODU HQ, the other in the VMER ambulance on the spot) “advised” for the initial transport to Guarda Hospital, “which did not have the specialities available to treat a victim in such a serious condition”.

The net result was that the victim spent much longer ‘on the road’ – being taken one way and then retracing the journey in order to go another, before he was properly treated at Viseu hospital.

Firefighters involved totally contradict the INEM account.  Commander Carlos Almeida tells reporters: “On more than one occasion the VMER doctor advised on transport to Viseu” which was only 40 minutes from where the accident happened in Celorico da Beira. “But that didn’t happen.

“No one can know if the outcome would have been different”, admits Almeida – much as Expresso considered in its report. But the longer the man lay in an ambulance with a tourniquet stopping him bleeding to death from the terrible wound in his leg, the greater the likelihood of “injuries due to lack of oxygenation”, ergo the more likely that he would lose the leg due to tissue damage.

This issue was also highlighted last weekend by two associations representing emergency medical technicians, firefighters and agents of civil protection, which warn that the quality of Portugal’s medical services is failing.

Calling for a parliamentary inquiry, they warned that “it is not the right to health that is at stake, it is the right to life”.

This recent incident, boiling down to wasted kilometers on a road when emergency treatment was critically required, was just “the second case of which we are aware in the space of a week” warned the associations, underscoring what they called INEM’s “repeated inability” to provide transport “to definitive care”.

The ministry of health has said that the case should be investigated, adds CM

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