Cabbies to the rescue as ambulance driver shortage bites
With the surge in COVID-19 infections shedding light on the shortage of ambulance drivers, more than 200 local taxi drivers have come out in support, easing the pressure on emergency medical centers, Shanghai Morning Post reported.
"These cabbies have to work 12 hours a day, taking more than 10 carloads, as well as ferrying patients as stretcher bearers," Li Min, head of the Dazhong Car Leasing on-site dispatch, told the Post. "The longest working time was 18 hours, but there were no complaints."
Ge Houwen, a 45-year-old taxi driver, was one of those who rushed back to Shanghai from his home in Anhui Province overnight after learning of the mission to support ambulance drivers.
"As a career driver, I felt obliged to become an emergency driver when Shanghai needed one," Ge explained.
"My grandmother passed away three years ago because there was no ambulance available on time. So I'd like to make up for it by helping others," he added.
During his time as an ambulance driver, Ge felt many people saw his team as "heroes" and this feeling of being needed makes him forget his fatigue.
His most unforgettable experience so far was rescuing a 94-year-old granny.
"I don't know where the strength came from, we just didn't feel tired at all when carrying the stretcher at that moment", Ge recalled. "Probably because we all wanted to save time in transferring patients."
After getting the order, Ge rushed to the granny's home, as she was in a serious condition, breathing weakly but with no pulse.
Ge carried her down from the family's third-floor apartment and rushed her to Xinhua Hospital, where he also helped arrange a bed and waited for resuscitation.
After Ge returned to the hospital later, the old lady's son suddenly hugged him and burst into tears, telling Ge that his mother was gone, but that he was very grateful to Ge's team, whose promptness had allowed his granny few precious minutes of life when she could communicate briefly with her family, providing a ray of comfort in their grief.
Learning on the job
Due to the urgent situation, the drivers were put on duty after just three hours of training. Ge told the Post that they were learning on the job.
Meanwhile, they are not afraid to ask questions or share experiences, thus working out some "tricks," such as using hard stretchers with the help of staircases to transfer patients for improved efficiency.
In addition, they also prepare oxygen kits in advance and give patients' families useful advice, such as bringing a wheelchair and visiting the nearest secondary hospital to save time. "These things are trivial, but they have the potential to ease ambulance capacity to some extent," Ge noted.
200 excellent "veteran drivers"
Dazhong Car Leasing's Li Min pointed out that not all taxi drivers are eligible to become ambulance drivers, and just excellent "veteran drivers" with no accident or complaint record in the past 2-3 years were chosen.
"Most of the taxi drivers were not taking part in this kind of mission for the first time. They had participated in medicine delivery in April and May. And as soon as they heard about the situation, they volunteered," the city's Road Transport Bureau said.