Residential estates encouraged to enable access to paramedics

Homes situated within residential estates have become a more and more popular option across South Africa. There are, however, some emergency situations when heavily guarded access points to these communities can be more of a hindrance than a help.

Shalen Ramduth, director: business development and support services at emergency medical services provider Netcare 911, says that emergency medical teams do sometimes experience delays at the gates of a residential complex, gated community or business park when security guards insist on being provided with full credentials before they will grant them access.

“While these kinds of tight security procedures are quite understandable and have been put in place to protect residents, time is always of the essence in emergency situations and holdups of this nature can potentially have serious consequences for the patient,” he notes. 

Review your access controls

“Netcare 911 consequently strongly recommends that homeowners’ associations and body corporates consider and review their access controls to cater for the possibility of such emergency situations,” advises Ramduth. 

“Estates, complexes, gated communities and office parks should put a comprehensive set of protocols in place to enable legitimate emergency services providers such as Netcare 911 easy access in the event of a medical emergency.”

Ramduth says that Netcare 911 is one best known emergency medical services providers in the country, so it is therefore extremely rare for the well branded and equipped Netcare 911 emergency vehicles and ambulances to be prevented or delayed in accessing secured premises. 

“A few years ago, however, I personally experienced this kind of situation,” relates the Netcare 911 advanced life support paramedic. “It was extremely frustrating for us as the emergency team, particularly as we knew that a resident of an estate had depended on our urgent assistance for severe chest pain. 

“The guards nevertheless insisted that we first prove our identity and tried to contact the homeowner to obtain permission for us to enter. They argued that they were ‘only doing their job’, which of course was the case, but their actions potentially placed a patient at risk.”

Speak to your security company 

Ramduth says that once your gated community or complex has established a set of access protocols for emergency services providers, it must take care to effectively relate these protocols to their security company.

“Security staff must be properly trained to know when it is necessary to grant access to an emergency services provider. If guards have concerns about the legitimacy of an ambulance or emergency vehicle, one of them could be asked to accompany the vehicle, rather than delay it at the entrance to an estate,” he advises.

“Security staff should always be adequately trained and be provided with a comprehensive list of emergency contact numbers. They can also be informed that the Netcare 911 national emergency operations centre number can be contacted at any time on 082 911 in the event of a medical emergency,” notes Ramduth.

Helping to facilitate rapid response times

Is there anything the caller or patient themselves can do to enable a quicker paramedic response time? Ramduth says that, if possible, the caller should contact their security company or gate security personnel in order to facilitate immediate access for an ambulance or other emergency response vehicle.

He recommends that residents of residential estates with a medical emergency who require assistance call the Netcare 911 emergency operations centre and do as follows:

• Give your name and the telephone number you are calling from to the call taker.
• Provide a brief description of the emergency and circumstances.
• Be sure to provide the correct address or location of the incident to assist paramedics to get to the scene.
• Contact, or get someone else to contact, your security company to ensure paramedics are able to access your complex easily.
• Stay on the line with the call centre operator and listen carefully to their questions and guidance. 

“With a bit of advance planning by both the individual and the community, potential delays can be avoided and the best possible outcomes achieved for patients in an emergency situation,” concludes Ramduth.

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