IN AN EMERGENCY, CALL 911

by Aetna’s Tom Sopel

Read Part 2 here…

As for Guatemalan EMS, we were very fortunate to be introduced to Mr. Arturo Pineda, Chief of Services, EMT, who was a longtime friend of Jorges. Mr. Pineda was kind enough to show us their base of operations.

He explained that most services, like their own, were Fire/EMS, and that EMS was provided under three different systems in Guatemala. There were the private companies that catered to the wealthy, the semi-private system that catered to the elderly and special populations, and lastly there was the public system, which he operated under.

The public system, although free, was extremely overburdened and having a waiting list of calls was sometimes an unfortunate reality. Mr. Pineda and his team at Cuerpo de Bomberos Municipales de La Antigua would run one or two ambulance for all of La Antigua, covering everything. It’s more understandable when you see that La Antigua’s population of 34,000 pales in comparison to Hartford’s 125,000. They had about three ambulances total, all donated from Japan from what appeared to be the 1980s.

When asked if I could inspect their equipment I found an oxygen tank, a stretcher and an AED/3 lead ECG that dated back to what I’d assume was the 70s, a long ways away from what is available to us in our ambulances. The medications they are legally allowed to provide are oxygen, glucose, albuterol and epinephrine, however they only carried oxygen, the other 3 would have to be provided by the patient. It’s moments like these where you really appreciate being able to collar a patient, or having things like trauma pads and nasal cannulas.

As for the paramedic level, medic positions will usually be filled by doctors, because the political and financial environment pushes them into field. Even then, whether they have any medications to give is a game of chance. This all being said, the work that the men and women working for the Bomberos Municipales de La Antigua is nothing short of amazing.