In Croatia: Upgrades to the Emergency Medical System Saves Lives
Development of Emergency Medical Services and Investment Planning Project
June 25, 2013
An emergency medical system is finally in place in Croatia, where for years there were no separate facilities for urgent medical treatment.
Under the system, hundreds of technicians are now on 24-hour call across the country, able to explain to often panic-stricken callers what steps to take until emergency aid arrives. They work alongside physicians out of more than 20 newly- established emergency medical centers around the country, from which medics are now dispatched at a moment’s notice, in new ambulances equipped with the latest medical tools.
“There used to be no standardized approach on how to advise people before the emergency team arrives, so these are the things that are buying time for our teams,” says Branka Tomljanovic, a physician and trainer for the Croatian Institute of Emergency Medicine, set up by the country to implement the new emergency medical system.
The system was funded through a World Bank-supported project, aimed at improving the efficiency and outcomes of Croatia’s Emergency Medical Services and at strengthening the capacity of the country’s Ministry of Health to develop and implement medical directives of the European Union.
In addition to providing new medical centers, new equipment, and new ambulances, the emergency health system has led to the establishment across the country – and for the very first time – of Emergency Departments within Croatian hospitals.
That means that patients with serious conditions are now treated almost immediately, on site, when before they were sent to specialized departments on other floors, or even other hospitals, says veteran doctor Snjezana Klancir, who works at one of the newly-established emergency departments in the Croatian city of Krapina.
We did everything as the family doctors without organized emergency services, but since one and half years, we have everything that I have been wishing for the last 35 years
Under the medical system, more than 20 hospitals across the country will have created separate emergency departments by the end of 2013. The departments will offer around-the-clock care to patients in need of urgent medical, surgical, and traumatic conditions, ranging from brain injuries to broken bones.
Before the new medical system, ambulances involved in emergency services were also used for general transportation, meaning that only 9.7% of ambulance trips were related to medical field calls. Under the new system, ambulances are now 100% dedicated to emergencies. As a result, 90% of patients with multiple injuries and 40% of patients with cardiac arrest are reaching the emergency centers alive, while 92% of the patients with multiple injuries, as well as 79% of patients that suffered a cardiac arrest and arrived alive at the emergency centers, survive at least the initial critical 48 hours.
It will surely help us a great deal because we work in the field and will need to know how to work with the equipment because our patients are often in life threatening situations
And through an educational component of the emergency medical system, an estimated 2,000 people working in Croatia’s emergency services are getting trained in the most recent medical technology and skills.
Kristina Muzek – a recent medical school graduate – was trained to use the new automated ventilators provided through the emergency medical project.
“It will surely help us a great deal because we work in the field and will need to know how to work with the equipment because our patients are often in life threatening situations,” says Muzek, adding that the extra training will help her and others in Croatia’s medical field to perform even better in future emergency situations.
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