SCDF will need to review ambulance operations

Staff Sergeant Azmir Ali Ameer Ali did the SCDF proud during the Braveheart Challenge yesterday, part of the Home Team Festival. He clinched top honours for the third year in a row in the international endurance contest.
Staff Sergeant Azmir Ali Ameer Ali did the SCDF proud during the Braveheart Challenge yesterday, part of the Home Team Festival. He clinched top honours for the third year in a row in the international endurance contest.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Shanmugam notes rising demand, says not possible to keep expanding fleet, crew strength

The civil defence force would have to review its ambulance operations to cope with increasing demand for its services, Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam said yesterday.

Speaking at a Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) parade during the Home Team Festival, Mr Shanmugam said calls for ambulances have been increasing by about 5 per cent annually in recent years.

In the first half of this year, the SCDF attended to about 82,000 emergency medical calls, or about 450 a day. This is an increase of about 7.4 per cent over the same period last year, he said.

"It will not be possible for SCDF to continuously expand its ambulance fleet and personnel to meet this increase in demand," he added.

The SCDF has a fleet of 50 emergency ambulances.

Leveraging technology was key to moving forward, he said, noting that specialised equipment like the Red Rhino helped enhance the SCDF's response to emergencies.

"(The Red Rhino) is more compact than a fire engine and it is able to reach the heart of a fire or rescue incident," said Mr Shanmugam.

Yesterday, the SCDF launched its fifth-generation Red Rhino, which can seat a crew of five, including an emergency medical technician trained to respond to fire and medical emergencies.

Mr Shanmugam also said there are plans to develop a "fire-medical hybrid vehicle" that can respond to a range of emergencies.

Yesterday was the second time Mr Shanmugam spoke at a Home Team Festival. The event at the Singapore Expo features an exhibition of technologies and equipment. It opened to the public on Friday and ends today.

Mr Shanmugam told some 580 guests at the opening on Thursday that the Home Team faces three key challenges.

First, it will face increasing international pressure to change its laws and policies, he said, noting how drug use has been decriminalised in some countries.

"Many of those who press for decriminalisation have no or little understanding of the actual experience of different countries," he said.

Second, the Home Team would have to grapple with a shrinking workforce even as it copes with increasing challenges, including cyber and transnational crime, and terrorist threats.

And last, it has to keep pace with changing social values and norms. For instance, officers have to learn to operate in an environment where "every action is going to be videotaped by somebody", and still maintain the public's high trust.

Yesterday, some of the Home Team's professionalism and daring were on display during the Singapore-Global Firefighters and Paramedics Challenge.

Participants include those from Malaysia, Vietnam, Australia, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Teams of firefighters pitted their skills against their international counterparts in challenges - in one instance competing to extricate a wounded man trapped in a vehicle.

During the Braveheart Challenge, an individual endurance competition, Staff Sergeant Azmir Ali Ameer Ali clinched top honours for the third year in a row.

He came in first among four firemen - the others being from Australia, Hong Kong and Taiwan - in an obstacle course that had him rappelling, carrying a ladder and hoses, and lifting a casualty to safety.

"I'm relieved naturally, the competition this year was very tough," said the 29-year-old.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 15, 2015, with the headline 'SCDF will need to review ambulance operations'. Print Edition | Subscribe