What happened to the
"first response" to emergencies involving drowning, heart attacks,
traffic accidents and burn victims that was promised to the residents of
San Pedro Town? Dr. Jeff Sersland, Dr. Rene Sersland and Andrew Remuzzi
of Medical Universities of the Americas (MUA), the planning team
responsible for the San Pedro Emergency Rescue Service (SPERS), would
like to assure the citizens and tourists, that efforts to establish the
rescue service continue. "We want to let everyone know we are actively
pursuing all means necessary to establish an emergency care system that
can be effectively implemented," Dr. Jeff Sersland stated.
Initially MUA had planned to oversee all emergency
operations, but later decided that in order to allow the community to
have a sense of responsibility for the system, it would be best to
integrate the emergency service into an already existing infrastructure
(fire and police emergency systems). The planning team also decided to
appoint a board to oversee the operations. In order to have an unbiased
board or one that equally serves each member of the community, the MUA
team decided to include representatives from most sectors of the
community, such as businesspeople, doctors, nurses, and health clinic
personnel. "The school cannot support the emergency system by itself; it
needs the support of the police department, fire department, local
doctors and nurses. If even one of these entities does not participate,
the system will not function effectively," Dr. Rene Sersland explained.
Although there was significant initial support, as the project wore on,
and "push came to shove" there were not as many organizations or
individuals willing to assist. Therefore, MUA must accept full financial
responsibility for the ambulance and the equipment contained inside,
until donations are received.
While part of the challenge to make the
ambulance operational is a lack of hardware, the other problem is a need
for a functioning centralized location to receive emergency calls.
Discussions are underway between the San Pedro Police Department, the San
Pedro Fire Department, local doctors and the MUA planning team to
establish this location. Each member of the SP rescue team (Police
Department, Fire Department, doctors, and emergency team) needs to be
able to communicate with each other day or night, to send emergency
assistance to 1) Assess the patient, 2) Determine the level of care, 3)
Stabilize the patient until a doctor can examine them and, if the patient
is in distress, 4) Transport the patient off the island using Wings of
Hope or the British Royal Air Forces (RAF). Another challenge is locating
the patients when there is an emergency call. Currently Mr. Remuzzi is
studying and compiling maps provided by the Lands Department, Belize
Electricity Limited, and Belize Water Services. This tracking system will
soon be tested to ensure rapid location of an emergency caller.
Once the logistical challenges have been met, there is
still a lack of hardware. Although many organizations and individuals
have pledged donations, MUA has not received any contributions to date.
Even though Andrew Remuzzi and MUA have made equipment donations, the
ambulance is not fully equipped. It contains, two stretchers,
oxygen & intravenous supplies, a PA (public address) system,
warning/alert siren, and a citizen's band radio, but is still awaiting a
much-needed heart monitor/defibrillator
that can be used in case of heart attacks.
MUA hopes to have the mock trials and the preliminary
"first run" phase of the ambulance underway, in addition to an
established emergency phone number (call center), and CPR
(cardiopulmonary resuscitation) courses scheduled by the end of May. He
also explained that they would like to setup the SPERS management system
in accordance with BERT (Belize Emergency Response Team) in Belize City,
with minimal charges to ensure that the ambulance and doctors are only
called for real emergencies. From
conversation with Andrew Remuzzi, The San Pedro
Sun learned that non-emergency situations are the reason
local physicians are "cautiously enthusiastic" when contacted for their
Dr. Jeff Sersland is soliciting "any form of support,
whether supplies or volunteer work" from the community to aid in these
efforts to provide emergency assistance to the residents of and visitors
to San Pedro.
For further information on how you can
offer support to the SP Emergency Rescue Service, please contact, Drs.
Jeff and Rene Sersland, or Andrew Remuzzi at 226-3744.