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Report: One day of ambulance doctors


Starting January the 1st, new first aid rules are taking effect in Russia. From then on, ambulances will be on duty only for emergency and high-priority cases. In the latter case, the mbulance may take some time to reach its patient. Some of them will even have to reach hospitals by themselves.


Emergency departments will be created at hospitals, just like in the Western countries. How will these novelties affect St. Petersburg? Our special correspondent Elena Boldysheva spent a shift with doctors to find out what they think about it.  

Elena Boldysheva, correspondent: “We have received our first call. Its outside of the city. The ambulance crew consists of a doctor, a paramedic and a driver. The news that starting from January 1st an ambulance driver will also be used as a paramedic is already a laughing matter. Let’s change. The driver will act as the doctor and I will take the wheel. Feel the difference” 

10.30. We’ve arrived to one of the prestigious outskirt areas of St. Petersburg. A luxurious house with a tall fence. We ring the bell. After a few minutes of waiting we understood – it was a false call. 12.00 We’re back at the station. Every ambulance crew works in shifts. Which lasts 24 hours.  

Elena Boldysheva, correspondent: “Look – these shoes are fondly loved by doctors in Russia. Moccasins. It really is comfortable, especially when you have to be constantly on your feet the whole day”.

Medics are trying to figure out how their lives will change at the beginning of next year. 

Vladimir Losikov, ambulance doctor: “This is an attempt to implement a western style of work, which I believe to be incompatible with us. – Why? – Because it is difficult for us. Too many questions – rest, professional qualities. – Here’s, by the way, the resting place. Nobody’s here. Where is everyone? – They are all on calls. Working. Resting on their way from one call to another”

12.30. Cantina. Lunch time is always random because of round-the-clock work. 

Salaries at ambulance work start at 80 thousand rubles, plus bonuses and supplements. Most of the medics manage to combine work at the city ambulance station and at a private one. 

Dmitriy Lisovskiy, ambulance doctor: “Two jobs mean I work one day, rest on the next one”. 

In his one day off, Dmitriy gives lectures at the medical institute. We go back to the issue of new ambulance rules. 

Andrey Naumov, ambulance driver: “Take out the stretcher, and then go to get the patient. While you go, nobody’s looking at your stuff. There have been cases when – maybe it was a joke – when I returned and the stretcher wasn’t there”. 

Dmitriy Lisovskiy, ambulance doctor: “A driver cannot occupy several functions during a difficult call. He can be a 4th assistant, but not a driver and a paramedic at the same brigade” 

13.00. Our crew leaves and we’re staying at the ambulance station. Going for an acquaintance with its dispatchers. From January 1st, they will be responsible for deciding whether a call is an emergency one, or whether it can wait. The difference is that a high-priority call means a patient can wait. 

Elena Bazil, dispatcher: “There was an incident when a man called 6 ambulance crews. He had been calling here for several nights in a row. We sometimes get easy calls – a person doesn’t need any help. Some call us under the influence of alcohol or narcotics. But there have been many difficult cases as well” 

In Germany, one could be fined for up to 500 Euro for a false call to the ambulance. There, just like in many other countries, a person with minor ailments will have to reach the hospital by oneself. 

Lev Averbakh, head doctor of a private ambulance center: “An absolutely new structure is being created. Separate ambulance departments at reception wards, in reception wards or next to reception wards – it is yet unclear. Such thing didn’t exist and is created only now”. 

There are no ER’s – like in western movies. But article 79 of the federal law on citizens’ healthcare reads that a medical organization must provide emergency aid to citizens. We’ll try to get to the reception ward by ourselves – without an ambulance.  

14.00. The Elizavetinskaya hospital at the Vavilolykh Street. There’s a cue in the hall. Patients are in the examination wards – some of them seem to be in serious conditions.

There’s a shortage of doctors. But, nonetheless, every complaint is being considered. 

Doctor takes us inside the examination ward. He pays no attention to the fact we don’t have a medical insurance papers on us. 

Having concluded the examination, he sends us to a different specialist. Politely asks to wait a little. In other examination wards there are people with really serious injuries, faking an ailment becomes uncomfortable. 

We’ve seen it all already – the reception ward doesn’t look like a sitcom ER, but doctors are equally attentive. We return to the station. The crew, with which we had gone on a false call, returned.

No calm lunch for the medics again. We’re going to the Parnas area. Passers-by called an ambulance for a man in the street. It’s almost 17.00. Traffic in the city is getting more and more congested. The driver shares his thoughts on other car owners’ behavior. 

Andrey Naumov, ambulance driver: “There are different people on the road. Some are letting us go through, some don’t. Sometimes I have to quietly swear at them. There have been many calls not to give road to ambulance cars”. 

After a long search, we found the man – standing against a heating pipe. The patient arduously answered some questions, and the doctor decided to examine him. He had a high arterial pressure, significantly high. 3rd degree arterial hypertension. 10 ml of Magnesium Sulfate, 10 ml of physiological solution. 

The patient was delivered to the same old receiving ward of the Elizavetinskaya hospital. Almost 18.00. Our day with the men in the white suits has come to an end. 

Elena Boldysheva, correspondent: “Experts and doctors are united in an opinion that hardly things will dramatically change in St. Petersburg after the new rules take effect. We have city ambulance stations – which take emergency calls – as well as district high-priority medical assistance centers, which attend to “lighter” patients. As we’ve managed to find out, any person can turn to a reception ward. One thing left to hope for – is that new ambulance departments, which will appear at hospitals, will take the service to a higher level”.