[Note: This is the second part in a short series about my visit to an Italian Ambulance Service. Click to read: part 1]
After we had finished looking around the new ambulance station, Enrico drove us the short distance to the ambulance call-centre; where approximately 300 emergency calls are received each day.
In the London Emergency Operations Centre up to 4,000 calls may be received every day and these are handled by around 25 call takers and around 40 dispatchers and other staff, each covering an area of Greater London. Therefore, we could hardly fail to notice that, in Verona, things were rather different – there were only six desks in the call-centre with just three nurses handling both incoming calls and dispatching vehicles!
The call-centre is staffed by nurses who also rotate through the helicopter emergency medical service (HEMS) along with a doctor and pilot, and a single advance life support car (ALS) also staffed by a doctor.
The HEMS service and ALS car cover the whole province of Verona; approximately 81 square miles / 210 square kilometres, and as they do not use a priority dispatch system, the nurses must judge each call on its merits based on their experience and try to dispatch them wisely to the most critical or deserving patients.
The ambulances are staffed by a small core group of paid staff which include nurses who rotate through the Pronto Soccorso (ED). They are supported by a larger number of volunteers who practise to a level roughly equivalent to our ambulance care assistants or technicians.
Come back next week to read part 3, when Enrico drove us over to the HEMS base.