Ambulance technicians report the poor quality of their PPE

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At 24 euros ambulance technicians from various cities get a monkey or diver on the internet of protection. They would find them cheaper if they bought them in batches of 500, but it is not done yet in a group in which the intermittent shortage and variety of PPE is accompanied by low wages. In the absence of the best protection, the people of the medical transport look for life in Amazon and in hardware stores, especially in rural areas and on the sly of the boss. The phenomenon is frequent in Extremadura and Castilla-La Mancha, according to the sources of the sector consulted.

“You see the astronauts arrive from the public and you are envious,” says the technician Walter Alvarez, a member of an ambulance crew in Barcelona and a USOC union member. “Astronauts” calls the operators equipped with divers and goggles.

Álvarez thus refers to the difference between the PPE that his colleagues receive from the Barcelona SEM (Sistema d’Emergències Mèdiques), from public health, and those that they give to the technicians of the Transports Sanitaris de Catalunya contracts and other firms.

Non-medical masks

Álvarez speaks from Catalunya, one of the territories where conflicts in the ambulance sector are hottest. The last batch of masks that the firm Transports Sanitaris de Catalunya has delivered to its technicians will star the next complaint to the Labor Inspectorate emanating from medical transport.

Write the complaint Vicente Mancebo, an emergency technician who works in the Alt Penedès and has already had sirens on his back for 13 years. The reason: the masks, of Chinese origin, are FFP2, but have a sign on their packaging: “Non-medical use”.

Other masks that the company’s ambulance technicians denounced in Girona for not meeting the homologation criteria were withdrawn by the firm … “and they appeared in Barcelona two weeks later”, Mancebo account. TSC is a brand from Ambuiberica, which in turn belongs to the consortium Health Transportation Group (HTG), made up of two venture capital funds. TSC has not commented to EL PERIÓDICO.

The dirty suits, at home

Another complaint has recently stopped an imprudence in the private contracting of ambulances in the Catalan capital: in several companies, the technician himself was the one who had to wash the protective suits in his own home. That, the absence of PCR screening and the long wearing time to which they are required with the masks are the reason for a USOC lawsuit that on December 1 is seen in the Superior Court of Justice of Catalonia.

The union accuses not only various companies, but also the Department of Health. “We consider it subsidiary responsible; is the contractor of private companies. Without adequate protection, it is not only that we carry the virus to our families, it is that we are a contagion route for the patient, “says Walter Álvarez.

Standards designed for the initial moments of the pandemic, when masks, gowns and screens were in short supply in this country, have not yet been changed in numerous service contracts, and the endowments of PPEs often remain at the discretion of each company.

Sanction

In Aragon, the Administration, and not the unions, has certified another possible route of contagion of the coronavirus on board ambulances due to lack of adequate protection. The construction company Acciona, which manages the sanitary transport of Zaragoza, has been the subject of a record of the Labor Inspection for serious infraction.

On May 14, Trabajo considered that, in the initial phase of the pandemic, the company’s health technicians had to reuse your FFP2 masks “beyond their intended life”. A material that Health recommends today was used for 168 hours, in various public brochures, for only 48 hours.

Acciona has alleged in its defense that it has complied with the Aragonese protocol for the pandemic. On Saturday March 28, at eight o’clock in the afternoon, the Acciona Assistance Coordination Operational Directorate in Aragon sent its ambulance technicians an internal email with instructions emanating from the regional 061. The document, to which EL PERIÓDICO has had access, establishes that the FFP2 masks “in case of being used with the protection screen, are valid for seven 24-hour work shifts, or equivalent (total 168 hours of exposition)”.

This use was done “without sterilization measures having been adopted after each use,” says the sanction certificate. The labor authority believes in its sanction that the company cannot limit itself to complying with the protocols “when they are insufficient to ensure said protection, and they do not comply with the regulatory requirements.”

The protocol has not changed, according to company sources, but now, after the hard phase of the pandemic, the technicians of its ambulances use the masks on demand and for less time.

However, four months after that sanction, staff sources They still show poor quality PPE, flimsy, based on the use of gowns. “The gown is useful indoors, in hospital areas when the patient is already lying down and stabilized, but it does not give you security in an out-of-hospital environment. The diver is the most protective in ambulance. Replacing the diver with a gown is not appropriate, “says the emergency technician and UGT delegate from Logroño Adrián Zaldívar.

In Zaragoza, in addition, the internal protocol establishes the collective, not individual, use of face shields and helmets. “Screens and helmets belong to the ambulance, not the person,” explains one of the medical technicians consulted. When you finish, you take it off, clean it and leave it in the car for another partner“.

In the internal mail that establishes the protocol, the order stated that “the driver of the resource must clean and disinfect the screens after each use (& mldr;) and they must always remain in the ambulance. “

In La Rioja, the ambulances of the Ferrovial contract also carry two face shields as equipment, but the technicians have others. “We – explains Zaldívar- We use those donated by another company at the beginning of the pandemic to all health personnel in the region. “

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