Up next on the second day of the meet up was a guided tour of the Paramedic Service in the Swiss City of Bern, curiously named the “Sanitätspolizei”, literally “medical police”. I guess that gives a whole new meaning to the term “Cardiac Arrest”…
In reality though, the terminology can be explained historically – over a century ago, it was realised that a dedicated corps was needed to help people with medical problems in the community (well, get them to hospital). This group was recruited from the police force, and the police moniker stuck, although they have nothing to do with the police at all.
When the service was being set up early last century, a specialised water rescue group was also needed. So the Sanitätspolizei got lumped with that too, and has proudly kept it to this day and age. Every ambulance is fitted to tow one of the many boats that can be found at their HQ.
The 6 day rota that staff work seemed interesting; day shifts on day 1 & 2, moving on to a night shift from the evening of day 3, finishing on the morning of day 4, and having day 5 & 6 off.
Far more interesting (read: different, strange) was the way vehicles are staffed. To understand this, I will list the “clinical points” that are given to staff of varying clinical grades:
- Student Paramedic, year 2
- Student Paramedic, year 3
- Qualified Paramedic
- Experienced Qualified Paramedic
- Experienced Qualified Paramedic with ICU/Anaesthesiology nursing qualifications, OR Junior Emergency Doctor
- Experienced Emergency Doctor
There are a pool of staff floating around the station (the only station in Bern) at any given time. Staff are not assigned to a specific vehicle during shift, or have a certain partner. When an emergency call comes in, the calltaker/dispatcher (same person) triages the call. Depending on the nature of the call, a varying amount of “clinical points” are needed to appropriately staff the vehicle. A patient transfer job (all done by these guys and girls) can be handled by a single qualified person, only three points are needed (there will always be a fully qualified Paramedic on every vehicle). If a call is deemed low to medium priority and needs (minimum of) six clinical points, it could be two qualified paramedics, or an experienced qualified paramedic with a year three student. Cardiac arrest calls have the highest point count at 9, and one of the staff have to have at least 4 points to their name. For calls like this, they try to put three staff on a vehicle.
To get the resource running, the dispatcher broadcasts the names of the staff that they want to respond, they go down to the garage, get a “job fax” (a printout stating the nature of the call). Staff then grab a vehicle, tell control what vehicle they are on, the call details are sent to that vehicle (including sat nav), and away they go. After a call is finished, the vehicle is returned to base, the crew restock and clean it, as it unlikely that they will use it themselves in that configuration again.
Confused much? So were we.
Emergency! Jackets and boots are not allowed past the garage, so staff leaver them here, ready for their next call
A few numbers before I leave you with a selection of vehicle pictures:
The Sanitätspolizei Bern
- have 150 staff
- 15 of those are office based. They are all qualified paramedics, and can respond to calls if need be (non-clinical work such as accountancy and HR are dealt with by the city of Bern, and are located elsewhere, separate from the service).
- receive 186 000 calls for help annually (510 calls a day)
- dispatch 39 000 calls annually
- do both primary (75%) and secondary (25%) calls.
- On average, once a week the water rescue team are dispatched. Approximately half of the staff are water rescue trained, both above the water (boats) and below (rescue divers).
- 2% of secondary calls are made up of transporting corpses to the mortuary. These transports are done with neutral coloured vans with undercover lights and sirens if needed – an example given where expedited removal is needed is to clear the high speed rail lines after people have been hit by a train.
- have a company policy that staff must use the sliding pole to reach the garage when called out. It is seen as too dangerous to use the stairs. This caused amusement amongst some of us, as in Germany many services have banned the use of sliding poles as it is seen as safer to use the stairs.
And now, finally, the moment you’ve been waiting for. Colorful cars!
The group around a Mercedes Sprinter 315, coachwork by the German company Ambulanzmobile, type “Delfis”. This is the main type of emergency ambulance in use in Bern.
Mainly used for nonemergency calls is the smaller VW T5, coachwork again from Ambulanzmobile, type “Hornis”. Can be used for emergencies as well, has all the same kit, just less room.
The so called “Hochlang” (literally: talllong, because it is tall and long) built on a Mercedes E Class chassis is a dying breed – as they age, they will not be replaced by newer versions. They are primarily used for long distance transfers – colleagues who have used them love the smooth ride, but this comes at the expense of far less room compared to other types of vehicles.
An officers/supervisor car, Mercedes ML.
And they even have a Lambo in the garage!
Thanks for additional pictures by © Nils Düster and (cc) Martin Greca. To get in touch with them, please contact me via the Contact! page