In a collaboration between healthcare group SingHealth and the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF), more than 250 paramedics from SCDF will serve hospital attachments over six years for advanced clinical training, to hone the skills of emergency services.

14 nurses from the Singapore General Hospital (SGH)will also be seconded to the SCDF's Operations Centre to help manage complex calls. This is in response to the complex needs of Singapore's ageing population as four in ten emergency calls in 2015 were found to involve seniors.

Older people tend to have multiple health problems, which means paramedic training must get more sophisticated, explained SCDF chief medical officer Ng Yih Yng.

Training paramedics to address needs of ageing population

Part of the paramedic's training will involve dealing with simulated emergencies at SingHealth's education arm, called SingHealth Academy, which coordinates training efforts across the multi-disciplinary academy.

"When we manage the patients today, as compared with 20 years ago, (they) no longer have one problem where you can apply a single protocol," said Mr. Ng. "We need to evolve the training from just application of protocol towards critical thinking and problem-solving... How do they prioritise and which is the problem they need to solve immediately."

Adding on to Mr Ng's statement, Professor Ivy Ng, who is group chief executive at SingHealth also said that Singapore's ageing population will have more complex care needs, thus requiring higher intensity of medical attention. It will also raise paramedic training standard and improve emergency response rates in Singapore, she added.

Collaboration built upon successful pilot scheme

An earlier pilot scheme involving four nurses seconding the SCDF's 995 operations centre showed good results and improved survival rates, said Associate Professor Marcus Ong, director of the unit for pre-hospital emergency care at the Ministry of Health.

"Last month, one of my nurses told me that she gave instructions over the phone when someone was choking on a fishball... and that person was saved," said Professor Ong, who is also a senior consultant at SGH's emergency medicine department. "This is a very practical example of the difference they can make."

Both groups are also working to develop a programme to establish senior paramedics as paramedic educators to teach these advanced skills to fellow junior paramedics.

Between 2011 and 2015, the number of emergency calls to the SCDF consistently increased by about 5% each year. Calls involving the elderly also increased - from 33.8% in 2011 to 37.4% in 2015.

As part of their hospital attachments at either SGH or KK Women's and Children's Hospital - SCDF paramedics will learn what goes on in the wards, emergency departments and operating rooms. They will also be trained to deal with simulated emergencies at SingHealth's new medical simulation institute, which was launched on 11 January, involving five colleges to train healthcare professionals. MIMS

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