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Little is known about the existence, distribution, and characteristics of Emergency Medical Services (EMS) systems in Africa, or the corresponding epidemiology of prehospital illness and injury.
A survey was conducted between 2013 and 2014 by distributing a detailed EMS system questionnaire to experts in paper and electronic versions. The questionnaire ascertained EMS systems’ jurisdiction, operations, finance, clinical care, resources, and regulatory environment. The discovery of respondents with requisite expertise occurred in multiple phases, including snowball sampling, a review of published scientific literature, and a rigorous search of the Internet.
The survey response rate was 46%, and data represented 49 of 54 (91%) African countries. Twenty-five EMS systems were identified and distributed among 16 countries (30% of African countries). There was no evidence of EMS systems in 33 (61%) countries. A total of 98,574,731 (8.7%) of the African population were serviced by at least one EMS system in 2012. The leading causes of EMS transport were (in order of decreasing frequency): injury, obstetric, respiratory, cardiovascular, and gastrointestinal complaints. Nineteen percent of African countries had government-financed EMS systems and 26% had a toll-free public access telephone number. Basic emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and Basic Life Support (BLS)-equipped ambulances were the most common cadre of provider and ambulance level, respectively (84% each).
Emergency Medical Services systems exist in one-third of African countries. Injury and obstetric complaints are the leading African prehospital conditions. Only a minority (<9.0%) of Africans have coverage by an EMS system. Most systems were predominantly BLS, government operated, and fee-for-service.
Mould-MillmanNK, DixonJM, SefaN, YanceyA, HollongBG, HagahmedM, GindeAA, WallisLA. The State of Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Systems in Africa. Prehosp Disaster Med. 2017;32(3):273–283.
There are several unique aspects of aeromedical transportation that render it vital to the overall management of disaster emergencies. Valuable time can be saved in moving medical expertise, supplies, and equipment into the disaster area as well as in moving victims out of the hazardous area quickly and in large numbers. Chaotic ground traffic at and near the disaster scene as well as environmental obstacles en route often may be avoided. Large numbers of disaster victims can be cared for efficiently en route by proportionately fewer health care personnel than is possible using traditional land carriers due to the concentration of many patients in one aircraft. Patients with similar injuries (e.g., burns) can be routed to and concentrated in centralized institutions that specialize in the care of those specific injuries. The plans for execution of the foregoing should include the use of military troop-transport aircraft that may be converted easily for patient transport. Also, military personnel should be involved, as they are part of a highly organized structure that can be mobilized more easily and swiftly than can most civilian organizations. The United States Air Force aeromedical evacuation policies and management structure is reviewed with attention directed toward additions and adaptations of this system needed to allow it to serve global disaster response. Such a highly evolved system will require a governing body with global reach for purposes of coordination and management. The resources for such a system currently exist but such an organization has yet to be formed.
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