May 27, 2021

EMS System Panama

Panama has a public EMS system with different agencies, the coordination is by 9-1-1 number.

We have a population of 4 million, we use around 300 ambulances with advanced and basic life support, some other vehicles like medical command, ATV responds and helicopters (military system). The agencies involved of these medical responds are: Emergency Medical Response System (SUME), Fire Department, Social Health Care System, National Police Medical Department, Ministry of Health by EMS Department, Medical Military System, National Civil Protection.

The EMS Department from the Ministry of Health has the responsibility to work on protocols, laws, regulations, authorizations for national emergencies and the National Operation Health Respond Office. SUME is in charge to respond on field to daily medical emergencies, supported by other agencies.

Human resources for prehospital care by law regulation are under paramedic degree (3- or 4-years training in paramedic school from some universities), doctor with ems training, nurses (For medical transfers between hospitals), Emergency Medical Vehicle Operator (registered course by law).

The private ambulance systems are not involved in daily, except for private request, but if we have a mass casualty event the 9-1-1 system, under the authorization from EMS department of Ministry of Health, could dispatch any ambulance necessary for the emergency.

We have professionals trained on Medical Air support and Tactical Medical respond; we have those programs by the military medical department.

The regulation of equipment is national with a minimal resources on list, depend for basic or advanced life support, every agency has to check this regulation working inside to implement at least those on field, they can include more equipment if they think is necessary, but no less. An example is: External Hemorrhage Control devices like tourniquets. hemostatic Agents, Israeli or compression Bandages. For airway manage we work with Intubation protocols with Supraglottic Devices, laryngeal intubation and BVM.

We are working in order to increase the training for civilians’ paramedics for tactical medical respond, MedEvac and ultrasound on field.

Our last big medical deployment was in 2018 with the Pope in Panama, we dispatch on field more than 100 ambulances, 400 first aid stations, 4 helicopters, tactical medical teams covering the Pope, Biological and Chemical medical respond team and 1000 first aid volunteers. We must include all the rescues agencies resources in order to be prepared for any mass casualty event.

Ricardo F. Hughes, MD, EMSP
EMS-Prehospital Care Section Member and Newsletter Contributor