When and when not to call an ambulance
Ambulances should always be available for real emergencies. An ambulance should never be used as a transport mechanism when you could have travelled in a private vehicle.
The Society and ER24 have embarked on a stringent programme to decrease the misuse of ambulances and to try to ensure that ambulance transports are reserved for patients who fit the definition for emergencies:
What is an emergency?
The definition is as follows: “An emergency medical condition means the sudden and, at the time, unexpected onset of a health condition that requires immediate medical treatment and/or an operation. If the treatment is not available, the emergency could result in weakened bodily functions, serious and lasting damage to organs, limbs or other body parts, or even death.”
All ambulance cases will be audited to assess whether the patient was admitted into hospital and/or whether there was a need for specialised emergency care. If the patient was not admitted and did not require specialised care, the ambulance claim may be rejected and the member may be billed privately for the transportation.
When should you call an ambulance, and when not?
To help members understand when calling an ambulance is advisable, and when it will probably just end up costing them money, ER24 has put together the following handy comparison of emergencies versus non-emergencies. If you are uncertain whether a situation warrants calling an ambulance, you can also call ER24’s helpline on 084 124 for advice.
CALL AN AMBULANCE
NOT AN EMERGENCY
REFER TO YOUR PHARMACIST / GP
|Persistent shortness of breath / Wheezing / Ongoing chest pain that worsens on breathing. Wheezing and difficulty of breathing associated with asthma (with no response to usual medications)
|Coughs, colds, flu, bronchitis, earache, sore throat – with or without fever, general weakness
|Acute or persistent, severe chest pain, especially if it radiates to the arm or jaw and is accompanied by sweating, vomiting or shortness of breath.
|Ongoing, dull, nagging chest discomfort
|Sudden, severe onset of abdominal pain (the kind that makes it impossible to walk and wakes one up in agony)
|Abdominal pain caused by menstruation, constipation and / or other minor abdominal complaints.
|Fainting, dizziness and headaches in an otherwise healthy person
|Ongoing, persistent diarrhoea & vomiting with dehydration (usually > 8 episodes/ day)
|Diarrhoea and / or vomiting, patient able to walk around
|Severe testicular discomfort
|Painful urination, blood in the urine
|Major allergic reaction: Breathing difficulties, swelling of lips / tongue or throat, dizziness or fainting, rash and itching over entire body
|Minor allergic reactions: watery eyes, runny nose, minor rash and itching
|Poisoning – accidental or intentional
|Back pain after trauma (such as falling), or after back surgery < 3 months previously
|Back pain after heavy lifting, generalised back spasm
Pregnancy – complicated
|Normal pregnancy/ labour reached > 37 weeks
|Depression/ emotional trauma