The creation of 88 more “specialized teams” of volunteer firefighters, in order to ensure “support, assistance and transport of patients” suspected of covid-19, as well as providing assistance to “operations under the vaccination plan”, is one of the measures envisaged for the new containment. This support will reinforce the 412 teams previously created by the Government, for a total of 500 teams with two members each. The transportation of patients suspected of covid-19 was done before that: between 23 September and 31 December 2020, volunteer firefighters from across the country transported 132,614 patients suspected of covid-19, tells Expresso the Portuguese Firefighters League (LBP).
It was in November that the executive determined the creation of these teams, fixing the payment to the Humanitarian Associations of Firefighters (AHB) of a daily value of 85 euros for each vehicle to be borne by the National Emergency and Civil Protection Authority. At the time, 80% of volunteer fire stations in Portugal joined the initiative – despite the delays in its operation, says Jaime Marta Soares, president of the LBP.
“There were some doubts and requirements that were not well clarified by the Government, otherwise I am convinced that the percentage would be 100%. But we spoke with the Secretary of State for Civil Protection and the situation has been clarified and made as bureaucratic as possible ”, he clarifies, also guaranteeing that, despite the delays, firefighters“ never leave work undone. ” “On the contrary, they have done it even if they receive nothing,” he says. Marta Soares says that the debt of the Ministry of Internal Administration to volunteer firefighters is now “residual”, but that the Ministry of Health owes “for many years” an average of 20 million euros.
The official also stresses that the LBP has been in direct contact with the Government, as well as with the Task Force created to manage the national vaccination plan against covid-19, coordinated by Francisco Ramos. Even so, he points out that, although firefighters have priority in taking the vaccine, “nothing has arrived yet”.
“I understand [que os bombeiros voluntários ainda não tenham sido vacinados] and I have been emotionally managing the situation, but the truth is that this creates discomfort within the fire department, it is very bad for the barracks ”, he says, remembering that INEM professionals have already been vaccinated -“ and we do about 95% INEM services ”, he adds. At the moment, LBP and INEM are in an “advanced stage of negotiations” to update the transport protocol for urgent patients that has not been reviewed since 2012, concludes Marta Soares.
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