A New But Feasible Concept in the Field of Emergency Medical Services
Paramedics on motorcycles are relatively of recent origin compared to the traditional four-wheeler ambulances. One may say it is the unification between passion for motorcycle riding and a medical career. Initially, the idea of motorcycle medics was given short shrift due to misplaced concerns on costs, risks of injury and generally the feasibility in the long run of such a program that has never been attempted before.
Nevertheless, such innovative emergency medical services (EMS), which are in some cases publicly-funded and operating at the community level, have made with great success within a short duration of their launch. Austin-Travis County in the United States is a living example of this. There, motorcycle enthusiasts and volunteers trained in EMS practices are making the concept of motorcycle medics an affordable, effective, reliable and sustainable service for thousands of residents.
The Case in Singapore
According to the Washington-based Transportation Research Board (TRB), the deployment of motorcycles in EMS is not new in Singapore. It was practiced as early as 1992, though it might not have been as widespread as it is years later. There seems to be a resurgence in the interest in motorbike EMS in the region. Medical facilities are encouraging simultaneous dispatch of ambulances and motorcycles.
Few years back, the Department of Emergency Medicine at Singapore General Hospital carried out some clinical trials wherein it had compared medical emergency response times of motorbike-based paramedics with conventional ambulances. Interestingly, motorbikes were found to reach the scene almost five minutes faster. A difference of five minutes in response time is significant for instance in cases of cardiac arrest since it can raise the survival rates by up to 11%.
So, motorcycle paramedics have been found to get to patients much quicker thereby enabling administration of care until another ambulance arrives. It may be mentioned here that fire departments are already using fire-fighting bikes in Singapore like they do in countries like Brazil and Japan where 200 cc bikes are mainly deployed. These bikes are touted as a practicable alternative solution with decreased response times in situations of high traffic congestion in large cities.
In fact, a 1.5 year-long study published in American Journal of Emergency Medicine stated that there was actually no requirement for ambulance transport in 18% of the medical emergency motorcycles (MEM) responses. This data finds resonance in National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians’ estimation that 20% of all medical aid calls are non-life threatening or non-emergent type.
The Anatomy of an EMS Motorcycle
Motorcycle paramedics are equipped with trauma kits, defibrillators and medications. Specifically designed BMW F700GS motorcycles are usually used for such emergency services. They come with factory-fitted alert and warning devices and satellite navigation. What’s more, their braking systems are better and stronger and the suspension is upgraded. They also carry dual batteries and all the necessary wiring for communications purposes.
These motorcycle ambulances have been tailored to make way through heavy congestion and access biking and pedestrian paths. They are known to achieve 10 to 15 times the fuel mileage expected of a truck. Along with comparatively low initial purchase costs and low maintenance requirement, they give negligible environmental impact. They have become the ambassador that facilitates improved patient care and greater patient satisfaction.
It’s quite reassuring to learn that motorcycle medics prove extremely useful in responding to life-threatening calls while freeing up normal ambulances for calls of less urgent type. For years, they have been instrumental in saving precious lives. No wonder that after a trial of three consecutive years, the ambulance service covering the southeast state of Australia, Victoria finally decided to make the paramedic motorcycle unit a permanent component of its regular fleet. Such success stories of motorcycle medical responders continue to emanate from all corners of the globe on a daily basis.