A new Netcare 911 paediatric intensive care ambulance has been specially designed and equipped to safely transport critically ill children who need to be transferred between hospitals to receive specialised care at an appropriate medical facility.
“The Netcare 911 team identified a need for such an ambulance as children have very specific needs,” says Shalen Ramduth, director of business development and support services at Netcare 911, and one of the prime movers behind the introduction of the new vehicle.
“A great deal of thought went into the design, with every consideration being given to ensuring that we can safely care for our critically ill young charges and that they are comfortable while being transported. The result is a dedicated paediatric intensive care ambulance, which we understand is the first of its kind in the country,” notes Ramduth.
Ramduth explains that Netcare 911 operates a number of intensive care ambulances staffed by paramedics experienced in critical care, for patients whose health is so compromised that they require an intensive care environment while en route between hospitals to, as far as possible, ensure that they remain stable and safe during their transfer.
“These ambulances have highly specialised life support equipment and essentially provide an intensive care environment for patients. Since their introduction a couple of years ago, they have safely transported hundreds of patients between hospitals,” he adds.
“While our standard ICU ambulances can be used to transfer paediatric patients, we wanted to develop an ambulance that was specifically suited to meet the needs and requirements of child patients. The new paediatric intensive care ambulance can therefore also accommodate medical technologies specifically for children.
It can, for example, carry a paediatric corporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) machine, for children who require both heart and respiratory support. Provision is also made to incorporate an incubator for babies who may require this form of support.
“The design of the ambulance supports a sterile ICU environment and the vehicle is routinely decontaminated through a rigorous infection prevention programme to maintain this.
“For the comfort of the child over longer distance transfers, the interior of the vehicle has been decorated with familiar cartoon characters and has warmer lighting in order to provide an environment that is as familiar, tranquil and as calming as possible. There is also a fold-down DVD entertainment system, and a bar fridge has been fitted to keep refreshments cool.”
According to Ramduth, the new Netcare 911 paediatric ambulance was commissioned some four weeks ago and has already proved to be an invaluable resource, having been used to safely transport a number of sick young patients requiring intensive care en route.
“The ambulance has been used successfully for transfers from centres not only around Gauteng but also from as far afield as the North West, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and the Free State provinces.
Like the other Netcare 911 intensive care ambulances, the paediatric team attending to children during transportation, is specifically trained and has highly specialised skills, to seamlessly transfer critically ill or injured paediatric patients between medical facilities.
“We are using our more experienced advanced life support paramedics for our paediatric team, who, in addition to having undergone special ICU training, are known to work exceptionally well with children. These crews ensure sick and highly vulnerable paediatric patients are in the best possible hands during transfer,” observes Ramduth.
The paediatric ICU ambulance, a modified Volkswagen Crafter, has been fitted with attractive and comfortable racing-car type bucket seats with three-point harnesses. These are used by the critical care paramedics attending to the patient as well as any passengers, such as a parent, who may need to accompany the patient on the journey.
“The VW Crafter was selected for its long wheelbase and spacious cabin, which gives the paramedic team plenty of room in which to work and space for specialised equipment to be carried if necessary. It offers a high degree of comfort for the patient and critical care team, particularly over longer distance transfers. The vehicle is furthermore reliable and offers excellent road holding characteristics and occupant safety,” says Ramduth.
“Nothing is more important to Netcare 911 than our vulnerable patients and we have developed units such as paediatric ICU ambulances, to ensure they are provided with quality and safe care,” he concludes.