Critical need to upgrade skills for EMTs

The three-month training was found inadequate in responding to emergencies
Health: The health ministry would yet again explore ways to upgrade skills of emergency medical technicians (EMTs) to enable them in effectively attending emergencies and to regularise their services.
Discussing the issues of capacities of EMTs at the third biennial conference on August 25, health officials said if the class XII graduates are to continue as EMTs, the current training of three months should be extended so that they are well prepared for any kind of medical emergencies.
Recruitment of EMTs began in 2011 after the initiation of the health help centre (HHC). There are about 59 EMTs today on contract.
Health officials said the three-month training for EMTs is inadequate given the kind of emergencies that they have to attend to. Even a minor mistake by EMTs, according to health officials, could have serious implications on the health sector.
A health official from Haa suggested that elderly experienced health workers be absorbed as part of emergency medical team instead of the existing batch of EMTs. This, he said would help provide better health services to patients during emergencies.
Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital’s president Lhab Dorji said services of EMTs are required although they are not capable enough to perform as expected.
However, he said that EMTs should be young and physically fit to be able to work under any condition. “It is important that we look for ways to build their capacity and strengthen them,” he said.
Director general of Department of Medical Services Dr Ugen Dophu said the ministry decided to phase out EMT last year but specialists at the Thimphu referral hospital felt otherwise.
The ministry then proposed to regularalise the services of EMTs and discussed with the Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC). “But it didn’t materialise,” he said.
Dr Ugen Dophu said that initially about 120 EMTs were recruited of which the emergency team is now left with 59. “They are expected to perform like a doctor despite receiving only three months training,” he said. “We’ll look at how we can build their capacities.”
Health minister Tandin Wangchuk also said that the ministry couldn’t phase out services of EMT as they are at the forefront during emergencies. “They are on contract and we should look at ways to regularise them,” lyonpo said.
Lyonpo also said that as EMTs age and are no longer fit, the ministry should look at ways to absorb them under different posts. “Based on the recommendations, the ministry will take up the issue,” lyonpo said.
The issue of EMTs was also raised during the second biennial health conference in 2013 where it recommended that skills of EMTs be upgraded in consultation with Bhutan Medical and Health Council. It was recommended that their services be regularised through discussions with RCSC.
Health ministry officials said a proposal has been developed to address this.
By Kinga Dema, Paro

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