Paramedics are trained healthcare professionals whose primary role is to provide advanced emergency medical care for critical and emergent patients who access the emergency medical system. They are often the first on the scene of an emergency with the required training and expertise to help prevent disability and death.
They can drive ambulances but not all ambulance drivers are paramedics.
This is important, especially in Nigeria. Many of our ambulance drivers are just drivers without any skills in life saving techniques. There in lies our shame and lack of understanding of the role of a paramedic. Many hospitals including that of yours truly have just ambulance drivers and rely on other members of the healthcare team especially nurses to render emergency care, as necessary.
So, why do we not have paramedics in Nigeria? Great question.
We do have paramedics in Nigeria, and I understand that the training takes place mostly at the University of Benin Teaching Hospital (UBTH). But there are also training centres in Delta, Ogun and Rivers States of Nigeria.
The program was set up in 2008 and designed to churn out graduates every three years. In 2014, the Federal government increased the period of paramedics training program to 5 years. This starts with 2 years to obtain a national diploma, a year of field internship and then another two years to obtain a higher national diploma (HND). Nigeria just recently graduated the first set of HND paramedics (30 in number)
Since inception in 2008, UBTH has graduated about 130 paramedics.
Unfortunately, most of them remain in the hospital working in the emergency room and involved in in-hospital patient transfer services. The paramedics triage patients, help with resuscitation procedures, move patients out for investigations, and when the need arises, go out to rescue people and get them to the hospital. However, they are underutilized as Edo State does not have an emergency medical service (EMS).
Well, Lagos State has an EMS and so some graduates work in Lagos and in Ogun States. The Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA), and Ogun State ambulance service recognizes and utilize the expertise of these practitioners. Some also work in private hospitals and ambulance services in Lagos State. One can point to some examples like Ambulance Nigeria, Ambulance Company and Brain Grace Ambulance Service.
A lot of advocacy is required to explain the worth of paramedics to the Ministry of Health, the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA). There is an urgent need for paramedics and the establishment of EMS in all the states of the federation. They will facilitate and compliment the work of NEMA and FRSC.
We need to rethink the strategies we have in saving Nigerian lives and develop the system to ensure that every life matter in Nigeria. The paramedics already trained are a much-needed manpower resource waiting to be deployed. There are also teeming numbers of unemployed youth in Nigeria begging to be employed. Many would gladly take up positions that empowers them to save lives.
Can you imagine having trained paramedics helping in the transfer of critically ill patients from one hospital to another? Can you see the benefit of such especially during this period of a worldwide pandemic? Can you imagine having trained paramedics helping in the safe transfer of critically injured patients from our roads to hospitals? Would you not be happy to see a paramedic appear to help save the lives of your loved ones?
We have youth.
We need paramedics.
What’s the hold-up?