Volunteers offer painless cure

2016-09-20 06:00
 Community Medics aims to equip community members to act as first responders in emergency cases. PHOTO: Community medics

Community Medics aims to equip community members to act as first responders in emergency cases. PHOTO: Community medics

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Medics from the community, for the community.

This is the ethos of Community Medics, a non-profit organisation that uses volunteers to respond to medical emergencies along the Atlantic Seaboard and in Table View.

Since December 2014, Community Medics have responded to 5500 incidents, says spokesperson Eric de Korte. Their busiest month to date was December 2015, in which they received over 430 calls. And they expect the upcoming summer months to be even busier.

However, De Korte explains, the organisation is also finding ways to make a bigger impact. They train community members with first-aid experience, to facilitate another line of responders. The training ensures these volunteers have up-to-date qualifications and are stocked with medical supplies. They are then added to the organisation’s network and dispatched to incidents near their homes when necessary.

This means a quicker response and someone on the scene to feed up-to-date information back to the organisation.

“It’s about getting someone on the scene as quick as possible, for example to start CPR. You’re closer and have enough training to assist before the medics arrive. It’s also having someone to feed information about the patient’s condition to us. Not every situation requires an ambulance,” he says.

But their training programmes are now moving even further afield. Community Medics, in partnership with the Department of Health, offer a free Emergency First-aid Responder (EFAR) course based on an international programme. This is the only one in the province, De Korte says.

The one-day course offers free entry-level training for the public and is aimed at communities in disadvantaged areas. The organisation has seen the training taken up by neighbourhood watches in areas such as Manenberg.

These trainees can then be used as first responders in their own communities, De Korte says.

“If we saturate the community with training we can get someone on a scene quickly to evaluate if they need an emergency response or just a bandage,” he says.

However, the organisation relies not only on volunteers, but also on donors. The EFAR course requires Community Medics to supply disposable items such as gloves and bandages, as well as practice dummies. All the training is offered by volunteers, which limits the number of courses they can provide.

In addition, the organisation also needs sponsors to fund the jumpsuits worn by volunteers. These can cost around R1200 each, and they need a minimum of 20.

The volunteers, qualified in emergency medical services, offer a minimum of two shifts a month, which can range between six and 12 hours.

But they often respond in their own time to calls close to their homes that go out over the organisation’s radio network.

“That’s a lot of what Community Medic is: a community organisation by people in your community,” says De Korte.V Visit communitymedics.org.za for more information.

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