“First responders” are people trained in advanced first aid who can respond at the same time as, and often more quickly than, ambulance services to suspected medical emergencies.
Hatzolah is a volunteer First Responder group, based on halakhic (Jewish legal) principles, in a localised area of metropolitan Melbourne with the highest density of Holocaust survivors outside Israel. Low numbers of “call-outs” to Victoria’s Metropolitan Ambulance Service (MAS) from this community suggested that many were reluctant to make contact with a “uniformed” external agency.
Hatzolah is an autonomous organisation operating under adapted MAS clinical practice guidelines and clinical governance processes. Hatzolah responders undergo an 18-month MAS training course comprising first aid, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, the use of semiautomated defibrillators, and oxygen therapy.
We describe the first 11 years (1995–2005) of the Hatzolah service. The number of patients attended to annually has risen steadily, peaking at 867 in 2005. The most frequent reasons for call-outs were falls (19.4%), chest pain (9.7%), or respiratory distress (7.6%). Hatzolah’s median response times were 2 or 3 min for all cases. They attended 35 patients with cardiac arrest (median response time, 2 min), and arrived before the MAS to 29 call-outs (83%). Nineteen patients (54%) with cardiac arrest were resuscitated and transported from the scene alive. Among those transported, significantly more had a shockable cardiac rhythm (50% v 13%, P = 0.03). Five (14%) survived to hospital discharge.
Hatzolah has evolved into an organisation providing a complementary service to the MAS. It serves as a model for the establishment of other metropolitan community First Responder groups.
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