FOR every 10 calls the Subang Jaya Community Ambulance receives, 5 are Covid-19 related. Over the last six months, the team has been walking on razor thin edge juggling between saving lives and putting their own lives at risk of infection. Fear however keeps the team on their toes when responding to medical emergencies these days. The team tells us why they fight on.

SUBANG Jaya’s Community Ambulance paramedics Amala Dass Maria Dass, Norhisham Ramli and Raymond Lee Yen Chuang are constantly in harm’s way when they respond to medical emergencies from the neighbourhood they serve.

Heart attacks, strokes, falls and road accidents used to be there “staple” on any day that they are on duty to provide medical aid. But since Covid-19 hit the country early 2020, their job is no longer merely doing what they used to do.

Over the last seven months in 2021, more than half of the cases they respond to in a month have been Covid-19 related. On average, the paramedics respond to about 90 cases a month; half of which are now Covid-19 related cases.

Their duties have become more important overnight. The team receives more and more calls from residents for help on the two hotline numbers made available. The Community Ambulance also serves the calls received from the Medical Emergency Coordination Center (MECC) 999 for cases that happen in Subang Jaya.

Through MECC, the community ambulance team helps to certify deaths that occur at home and also for Covid-19 emergency cases on top of their day-to-day cases.

For Amala Dass who supervises the team, life as a paramedic will never be the same again.

“More than half of the cases we receive in a month are Covid-19 related. As the number of Covid-19 cases rise, so has the cases that come in to us.”

“Personally, I no longer think about whether I am going to get Covid-19; it’s more about when I am going to get it,” Dass said.

All paramedics under the Community Ambulance have been fully vaccinated as early as May this year.

“Despite the fear of infection, I feel responsible to respond to every case that happens in our community. Every case is important.”

“The team wears PPE to protect themselves and also the patients when attending to any emergency. Most importantly, we wear the PPE to protect our patients from us as we do not want to pass anything to them,” he said.

According to Norhisham, the risk of contracting Covid-19 is high and he worries more about transmitting it to his family at home.

“I have my own health issues. The fear of being infected is real. Handling Covid-19 cases is like running into a burning house to me.”

“But our job is to save lives. To reduce the risk of exposure, we ask family members of the patient to tell us more about what the patient is suffering from,” Norhisham said.

Raymond considers every call the team receives as a Covid-19 threat and being fully protected themselves is the top priority.

“Being in full PPE protects both the paramedic and the patient. Although I do feel fear at the back of my mind, I remind myself that as a first responder I have to put that fear aside to carry out our duties.”

“Believing and trusting my team mates is important in these trying times as well,” Raymond said.

According to Dass, when a patient is brought into the ambulance, a face mask is put on for them.

“The face mask for the patient is important as it protects those around them and also those at the hospital when we arrive,” he added.

With rising Covid-19 cases, it is becoming harder to get patients into hospitals.

“Every hospital we send patients to tell us they do not have beds for patients to be admitted for treatment. Hospitals are heavily flooded with cases and as paramedics this is frustrating,” Dass said.

The Community Ambulance is doing all it can to sustain its services under these challenging circumstances. The team is looking to recruit paramedics and experienced volunteers to beef up the service to our community. If you fit the bill, Whatsapp to Kelvin at 012-323 7663.