Emergency Medical Team (EMT)
The World Health Organization (WHO) launched the WHO EMT or Emergency Medical Team in 2016 to improve the timeliness and effectiveness of health services provided in the immediate aftermath of a sudden-onset emergency or outbreak.
Following the launch of the EMTs, Malteser International commenced plans to set-up its own emergency medical team, with the objective of saving lives and minimizing health risks during disasters. The EMTs are certified medical emergency teams made up of doctors, nurses, paramedics, and logistics specialists, as well as other members with different areas of expertise who will be ready for deployment to an affected area within 72 hours of a disaster.
Background: Lessons learnt from the 2014 Ebola epidemic
In 2014, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially announced the outbreak of the Ebola virus in Guinea. Within a short period of time, the deadly virus had spread to other West African countries including Liberia, Sierra Leone, Senegal, and Nigeria. An end to the epidemic was not declared until January 2016. Similar to the outbreak of Cholera after the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti, the Ebola epidemic presented the global community with a major challenge in terms of medical aid delivery and logistics. Both disasters clearly showed that alongside the good will to provide assistance during emergencies, professional standards in the provision of aid are also necessary.
EMTs play a critical role in national, regional and global response capacities. As national health systems increasingly adopt the EMT minimum standards and principles, and as the number of internationally classified teams gradually grows, governments can be assured of a predictable and timely response by self-sufficient teams with highly trained health personnel. As of the end of 2016, only six national EMTs, mostly from Russian and Chinese civil defense organizations, were registered.
"EMT fixed 1"
Malteser International plans to register an EMT 1 "fixed". As opposed to EMT 1 "mobile" which provides basic outpatient emergency care to patients, the technical standards of the WHO require that the EMT 1 "fixed" team provide up to six weeks of emergency care through primary health stations in a particular area. The team is also required to operate self-sufficiently as a form of support to the affected government. The EMT 1 staff would also have to be able to treat a minimum of 100 patients per day in field hospitals. All materials required for the treatment of patients and the support of staff need to be provided by the EMT for the full duration of an operation. These include tents, sanitary facilities, beds, tables, chairs, food, electricity, and water.
An important step in quality assurance
Registering an EMT is a complex process designed to ensure consistently high quality. The WHO EMT Secretariat oversees EMT classification. Within the process, EMTs sign up for mentorship and eventual classification as internationally deployable EMTs that abide by minimum standards and principles. The Secretariat also manages a global directory of all EMTs that have committed to meeting these international standards for deployment and to providing time-limited surge clinical capacity to affected populations. This directory serves as a support mechanism for affected governments and all partners aiming to provide clinical care during disasters such as tsunamis, earthquakes and floods, or large outbreaks such as the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa. It allows a country affected by a disaster or other emergency to quickly call on teams that have been classified and quality assured.
Malteser International EMT Type 1 will be part of the WHO EMT pool.