Terrorizing Ambulance


“It sounds like a good news to me!” — interrupted us an experienced nurse, unexpectedly entering the conversation.

An anesthesiologist had just been appointed new responsible of the ambulance service, at the hospital of Mendaci, and we were wondering how things would have changed. A guy in his fifties, he had the fame of being a good emergency physician, but to lack any human empathy. Happily married with an iron-fist lady (daughter of a prominent and rich family, who owned all the domestic finances) and having a couple of teenager children, this grey-hair man was also a devoted Catholic. Not missing a holy service, on Sunday mornings.

I had no reason to doubt

“So, you know him well?” — I asked, ingenuously.

“Oh, yes! And with him here, I’ll have easy time.”

A dedicated genius in her work on the ambulances and on the medical helicopter, her relationships with the management had always been troublesome. So, somehow, I got surprised by this new enthusiasm.

“He will never dare to criticize me on anything, — my colleague continued — I slept with the man a couple of times, and he is terrorized I would tell to anyone. His wife would kill him, and put him out of home in a minute!”

I had no reasons to doubt. A single lady in her forties, she slept with most married nurses and physicians passing by the emergency service in those years.

Terrorizing the public

I don’t remember the first time I talked to the man, maybe I never did. Ambulance drivers were too low in the social scale to bother him. In particular, male ambulance drivers.

However, after a couple of months, he took the initiative to address his peers (medical doctors serving on the ambulances in Mendaci), with these words: “It is time to end this awful practice to terrorize the population, running with sirens on the streets of the city! You should tell to the drivers not to use sirens!”.

Now, believe me, Mendaci is a relatively small town, in the up North corner of the Country. People drive respectfully, and so fire brigades, police and ambulances do. Sirens and flashing blue lights were never abused.

The idea, the reverse ethical dilemma here, is this.
And I ask you to follow me for a minute.

doctor ambulance

The conjoint use

The Italian law prescribes that “The conjoint use of sirens and flashing blue lights gives to ambulances, while on emergency service, the right to ask free road to the other vehicles”. — To say that, just flashing lights with no sirens have no legal value. Moreover, there is an issue of security and safety.

The status of “emergency” was based on protocols when the ambulance was sent out, and on the decision of the nurse/paramedic/physician on the way back to the hospital. This decision is related exclusively on the conditions of the patient, which determines the priority of intervention and the need to reach the hospital safely and timely.

The invitation of our friend wasn’t to “underestimate emergencies”, but to simply switch off the sirens, while running on the street in emergency situations.

However, he could not give a written recommendation to do so. First, it would have been unlawful to request to use flashing blue lights without sirens, second someone would have sued him and the hospital for delaying the transport of a relative to the Emergency Room.

Verba volant, scripta manent

So, he told the medical doctors to tell to the drivers. Should have something happened, like a car accident, while running without sirens, the responsibility would have been only on the driver. Yes, the driver did not follow the law. “Oh, but the head of service said to do so!” — “Oh, really? Show me!”

What a coward. He did not want to take responsibility, but wanted to force others (in a weak contractual position) to take on themselves all the risks. The order went down from medical doctors to nurses, from nurses to drivers. Not to follow the verbal order meant reprisals. And maybe this was one of the reasons why I ended up sleeping in the toilet, during night shifts. (But this is another story, and you can read it here!)

Fact is, his villa was conveniently located on the main road to the hospital. And maybe, the wife was bothered by the sound of sirens more than by the unfaithfulness of the man.

But this was the city of Mendaci, and of course a simple tale of imagination, with no relation to real people. Just to be clear.


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