Emergency response a boon to Treasure Beach
BY GARFIELD MYERS Editor-at-large South/Central Bureau firstname.lastname@example.org
SANTA CRUZ, St Elizabeth – James Sadock remembers very well that day, 11 years ago, when he saved a child from drowning and first recognised the need for an emergency response unit in Treasure Beach.
Sadock, a young doctor from New York, was soaking up sun on Frenchman’s Beach in Treasure Beach when he saw a young boy running, pointing out to sea and shouting “mi brother drownin”.
The doctor didn’t take it seriously at first, but then he looked out to sea and saw a little head bobbing in the water. Swimming as fast he could, Sadock got there just in time to pull the child to safety and successfully administer CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation).
That day and well into the night, Sadock talked to locals and discovered, to his amazement, that “everyone knew someone who had drowned” and further, that many people couldn’t swim and hardly anyone knew CPR.
“Initially, you think of an island and believe that people can swim, but a lot of people don’t live near the sea (and) swimming doesn’t come naturally; you have to be taught it,” said a reflective Sadock as he spoke to Jamaica Observer Central recently.
Not long after his heroics at Frenchman’s Beach in 2001, Sadock made another discovery. “We heard someone got hit by a car. I asked ‘where is the ambulance?’ and they said ‘there is no ambulance’. They threw (the victim) in the back of a pickup truck (to take him to hospital) and you can’t do that…,” he said.
The combination of those experiences laid the groundwork for the Treasure Beach Emergency Response Unit (TBERU) which was launched in December 2002. Part of that unit was a volunteer water rescue team.
The way Sadock tells it: “We took the best swimmers and put them through a rough water course… and right after we trained them one of them pulled out a tourist who was drowning…”
A second component included the procurement of an ambulance with the help of donations and the development of a volunteer emergency team.
To date, Sadock’s TBERU has trained 120 volunteers in adult and infant CPR, 30 in water rescue skills, and over 50 in standard first aid skills. It has also saved “over 200 lives”, among other achievements.
After nearly a decade in operation, that first ambulance broke down for the final time last year, forcing the Treasure Beach community to come to grips with how valuable it had been. Enter the NCB Foundation. The community development arm of National Commercial Bank responded to lobbying from the Treasure Beach community development organisation BREDS by donating a “brand new” replacement ambulance.
Explaining the basis for his company’s role in community projects such as the emergency response at Treasure Beach, NCB chairman Michael Lee Chin told his audience at the Treasure Beach Sports Park that “you can’t expect a business to continue to do well unless it is doing good”.
Noting that a scholarship he received from the Jamaican Government as a young man changed his life and set him on the course to success in finance and business, Lee Chin, a Jamaican-Canadian billionaire, said his vision was always to play his part in building “a better Jamaica”.
The new ambulance cost $3.5 million and is being operated by a committee of BREDS. According to BREDS chairman, community activist and hotelier Jason Henzell, it will serve Treasure Beach and surrounding communities much as the previous one did for close to a decade.
Henzell cautions, however, that while volunteer emergency responders have been trained and retrained by Red Cross and St Johns Ambulance, “we are not paramedics, we are not emergency medical technicians. We are first-aiders and first responders and the ambulance will only have the basic things (such as) a defribilator and oxygen. We can deal with cuts, broken arms, things like that. We have neck braces, backboards, but we are not certified doctors, and we are not pretending to be”.
The BREDS chairman said the more than decade-long experience of the emergency response unit meant “we have these links with the hospital (so) we know how to respond. We know how to call ahead and tell the doctors either in Mandeville or Black River what the symptoms are; we have built up a reputation with them. From time to time they call us (for help). Many a time we have helped Black River Hospital with transferring patients to Mandeville and even as far as Kingston. We have to partner with government and the public sector and that is how we are going to build a better Jamaica.”
In relation to the new ambulance, there are tighter controls and a “minimal fee”. “We had an ambulance before and for the most part, it was free and we don’t want to go down that road again,” said Henzell.
“If you don’t know what you are doing, these kinds of things can be a gift but they can (also) be a curse. If you get something that you can’t maintain as an organisation it can actually be the downfall of the organisation. We are not saying we are going to charge commercial rates, but we are going to charge a reasonable user fee. If you have somebody who has a genuine emergency and genuinely cannot pay for it and none of the family can pay for it, then that is somebody you give to and you move on... But most people have the ability to pay something reasonable. That is what we have to get behind and adapt,” he said.
For Alwyn Miller, CEO of the Mandeville Hospital and formerly of the Black River Hospital, the existence of the emergency response unit in Treasure Beach, coupled with NCB’s ambulance gift, provides immense value that cannot be easily measured.
“What it means is that you have a team of trained persons as first responders with the facility to appropriately respond to situations (and) stabilise the patient as best as possible before transporting them to hospital. That gives that patient a far greater chance of survival than would have been otherwise,” he said.