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When to call an ambulance for COVID-19

What to do in the case of an emergency and you need to be admitted to hospital during COVID-19?

A medical emergency means someone’s life is in danger and they require immediate medical attention.

Patients who require hospital-level care due to symptoms such as shortness of breath, rapid breathing, stabbing chest pain, decreased level of mental alertness and confusion, should:

  • Notify the receiving medical facility before arrival.
  • Avoid taking public transport to the facility – use private transport (preferably with windows rolled-down) or call an ambulance if required.
  • The patient should wear a medical mask if available.

When should I call an ambulance?

  • The person’s condition appears life-threatening
  • Moving the person could cause further harm or injury
  • The person needs the skills or equipment used by paramedics or emergency medical personnel
  • Driving would cause a significant delay in getting to the hospital
  • How to determine if a condition is life-threatening

Deciding whether or not to call an ambulance is a decision you’ll have to make based on your best assessment of the situation. Even if you think you can get to the hospital faster in your own vehicle, please remember that the ambulance is equipped to start emergency care as soon as it arrives.

Here are some examples of life-threatening conditions requiring an ambulance. The person:

  • Appears to be having a stroke (think F-A-S-T: Facial droop, Arm weakness, Speech difficulty, Time to ambulance)
  • Appears to be having a heart attack
  • Has lost consciousness, is unresponsive, or is not responding appropriately
  • Is having a seizure
  • Is having shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Is bleeding uncontrollably
  • Is having a severe allergic reaction
  • Has severe burns
  • Has swallowed something poisonous
  • Has thoughts of harming themselves or others
  • Has taken too much medication on purpose or by accident, including drug misuse or abuse

How to call for an ambulance during COVID-19

In case of an emergency, take a deep breath and calm down.

  • Please have the patient’s details on hand when calling to ensure that the incident is referred to the correct emergency unit.
  • Call one of the following numbers:
    • ER24 on 084 124.
    • Government Emergency Medical Services on 10177.
  • Tell the call taker that there is an emergency and you require assistance.
  • Give a brief overview of what type of emergency you are dealing with (someone not breathing or having difficulty breathing, etc.). Mention if the patient has tested positive for COVID-19 or recently recovered from COVID-19.
  • Provide the call taker with your name and your contact number. Should the line be dropped, the call taker will need a way to call you back.
  • Provide the call taker with the exact location of the emergency. Provide a closest cross street or landmark where possible.
  • You can now provide more detail on the patient’s current condition or the emergency.
  • Any ongoing medical issues that you’re aware of, like breathing problems or heart issues? Are they taking any medication?
  • Note any changes to the patient’s condition while you’re on the call.
  • Follow all of the call taker’s instructions carefully. You may request telephonic first aid.
  • Stay on the line until the call taker ends the call.

What to expect after you call an ambulance

How the triage system works

The Emergency Medical Service (EMS) triage system begins when you first contact an emergency call centre.

The call taker will:

  • Evaluate the emergency based on the information provided by the caller. This is why it’s very important to provide correct patient details including medical history if at all possible.
  • Prioritise the severity of the emergency using several filtering protocols as well as input from emergency medical practitioners at the emergency Contact Centre.

At this point, the incident is given a triage colour code.

It’s important to give details about the emergency to the Contact Centre to make sure that the correct code is allocated to it.