Bulgarian Red Cross to train taxi drivers to back up emergency medical services

Against a background of continuing protests by emergency medical services staff over poor pay and organisation, the Bulgarian Red Cross is to train taxi drivers to help paramedics while 50 posts with the ambulance service in Sofia are to be advertised.

The inadequate state of emergency medical services again came to the fore after the death of a 40-year-old woman, allegedly because an ambulance arrived late and insufficiently equipped to assist her.

This led to the government firing the head and deputy head of Sofia’s emergency medical services and the appointment of a temporary head, sparking protests by staff who said that the real problems were not being addressed – low pay, excessive working hours, inadequate equipment and the fact that all these problems made recruitment to the services difficult.

Tanya Andreeva, health minister in the embattled Bulgarian Socialist Party cabinet, has responded in part by redeploying staff from hospitals in Sofia to assist emergency services during the protest, in turn leading to critical press comments asking why it was possible to pay for doctors to come from elsewhere but was not possible to increase emergency medics’ salaries. Andreeva has refused protesters’ demands to resign.

The project announced by the Bulgarian Red Cross will see month-long training of 80 taxi drivers to help in responding to emergency number 112 calls in the event of severe accidents.

The idea is that the taxi drivers will respond in critical situations where emergency teams cannot respond immediately. Drivers will render first aid but their assistance will not include medical interventions.

The service will be available to both Bulgarian citizens and foreigners. It is part of a wider project by the Bulgarian Red Cross and the “Active Safety” Association that will also include providing ambulances, motorcycles and helicopters to respond to serious cases.

On June 9, Bulgarian National Radio reported that new teams of doctors from metropolitan hospitals would be formed to begin assisting emergency services from Tuesday, acting head of emergency services Dr Alexander Zlatanov said.

This would increase the number of teams to respond to medical emergencies from 11 to 20 around the clock, according to Zlatanov. The doctors added to the services would work on the basis of temporary contracts.

He said that 50 vacancies for the capital city’s ambulance services would be advertised. Former employees would be invited to apply, Zlatanov said.

His ambitions included seeking ways to increase salaries, he said.

But Dr Ivan Kolakov, head of the health federation in the Confederation of Independent Bulgarian Trade Unions, said that Zlatanov’s enthusiasm was commendable, but real measures were needed so that people were not deluding themselves that the problems in the emergency services were being solved.

Kolakov said that the fact that there were 50 vacancies was an indication that the posts were unattractive and poorly-paid.

Emergency services staff understood their responsibility to save people’s lives, but they should not be abused for this understanding, Kolakov said.

(Photo: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)



The Sofia Globe staff

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