In the Philippines, Even Your Chances of Living or Dying is Affected by Traffic
Frustration. Helplessness. Anger.
Really, it's not difficult to guess what goes on in the minds of ambulance drivers when they're stuck in traffic. Just ask ambulance driver and paramedic Joseph Laylo, who lost a patient during traffic :
"You feel empty. It is as if you were not given a chance to do everything in your capacity to help," he told Agence France-Presse (AFP). "If the traffic was not that bad it could have saved the patient."
And it doesn't matter if the sirens are loud enough to wake up the dead. Once bumper-to-bumper hits the road, it's every man and woman for himself and herself.
Public Safety Chief of the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Aldo Mayor, points the blame "partially" to road users.
"Some people simply do not care. It is as if they are the only residents of this world," said Mayor, whose government agency manages the capital's chaotic traffic.
So does it mean many motorists are basically selfish? And would they turn a deaf ear just to get ahead? Perhaps--but not all. There are times drivers are also the victims here--and feel just as powerless as ambulance drivers.
In fact, many road users drivers are willing to help, but couldn't. There are only limited roads with far too many vehicles to get around with. When this happens, not even good intentions can help make the ambulance move faster.
Vernon Sarne, a veteran automotive journalist explains:
"Even when you want to give way, but the motorway is full, what can we do? The ambulance cannot levitate," he told AFP as well.
"Abusive" Ambulance Drivers
What's more, not all ambulance drivers have honest intentions. According to ABS-CBN, some "use the lights and sirens just to cut through the traffic for non-emergencies." Just like politicians who use emergency vehicle escorts to make motorists give way during traffic.
"As a motoring public we are jaded to the fact that everyone is taking advantage of us," Sarne said.
Heavy traffic, voluminous vehicles, and inconsiderate motorist behavior, when taken together, give us a clearer picture of the main problem here, which is wasted time.
And for any ambulance that transports patients mostly on the brink of life-and-death situations, a second wasted feels almost like an eternity.
In the case of Laylo, his patient died inside his ambulance after it took them 15 minutes to take the patient to the hospital. Without traffic, the 5.7 kilometer travel time would only take five minutes.
"When you're trying to save a person's life, that is very slow," he said.
Another ambulance driver, Adriel Aragon, also lost a critically-ill patient during transit five years ago. The reason? It took him almost 40 minutes to get the patient to the hospital--a journey which normally takes half the time without traffic congestion.
"No matter how hard we honk, even if we use our siren, if the vehicles are not moving it doesn't matter," he said.
A similar incident that took a lot of flak from social media and even the government was caught on video. It showed counter-flowing motorists that weren't giving way for an ambulance to pass through.
The victim to be taken to the hospital suffered a stroke--an emergency situation that needs urgent action to increase chances of recovery. Unfortunately, it took the ambulance an hour to arrive at the hospital when it should only take minutes. The victim died a week later in the hospital.