Paramedics from the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) will be equipped with body-worn cameras from today in a bid to improve the quality and effectiveness of its emergency medical services.
The compact device, worn over the ear, will be progressively rolled out to all paramedics by next year, the SCDF said yesterday.
The recordings from these cameras will be used for coaching and training, as well as help fine-tune medical procedures.
The devices will also provide greater accountability on interactions between its ambulance crew and patients, the SCDF said.
More SCDF officers, including paramedics, are facing verbal and physical abuse while on duty. Last year, the force said, there were 26 reported cases of its front-line officers being abused, up from 23 the previous year. The figure has been increasing since 2016, when 20 cases were reported.
In its statement yesterday, the SCDF also addressed privacy concerns, saying that in certain situations, like maternity cases, paramedics will stop recording on the devices.
There are also plans to include live-streaming capabilities in the cameras, which will allow doctors off-site to give medical advice to paramedics attending to complex cases on the ground, if necessary.
Number of reported cases last year of SCDF's front-line officers being abused, up from 23 the previous year.
The director of the SCDF's medical department, Assistant Commissioner Yazid Abdullah, said the body-worn cameras are part of efforts to enhance emergency ambulance operations and improve patient outcomes. "At the same time, we have put in place robust control measures to regulate the use of the (devices) and the recorded data," he added.
For instance, only authorised personnel will be allowed to collect, store and use the data. Any access to the data will be logged to enable audit checks. It will also be encrypted for added security.
In addition, SCDF will ensure that the data is deleted after 90 days from the date of recording, unless there is a reason to retain it, such as for police investigations.
"Any officer who misuses the body-worn cameras or data will be dealt with severely,"said the SCDF.
Public concern over privacy is understandable, especially in the wake of incidents like the SingHealth cyber attack and Monday's revelation by the Health Ministry that the data of 14,200 people with HIV had been stolen and leaked online, said lawyer Bryan Tan.
Mr Tan, who specialises in technology law and data protection, said given the nature of emergency medical calls, some footage might capture intimate moments and in private places.
"We do expect that SCDF will train its paramedics on how to use the devices and tell them when they should or should not use them."
As more agencies explore the use of body-worn cameras to help in work processes and improve service and efficiency, they have to be aware of the risks, he said.
"With every new tech element we introduce, there is additional risk. It's a matter of how we mitigate that additional risk," said Mr Tan.
SCDF joins other organisations like the National Environment Agency and the Singapore Police Force in equipping its officers with body-worn cameras.