Why can't the ambulance and fire services be free - just like in the UK?
By YEHUDIT COLLINS
As an expat Brit, there aren't all that many things I miss about the land of my birth. My life here is preferable to the one I probably would be living, at my age, in the UK.
Still, I enjoy listening to UK radio programing on-line while working on my computer. Classical music supplies a soothing background, and occasionally the weather report gives me a chuckle when I hear of foul weather there while I bask in fair weather here.
British road reports sometimes give me pause as I hear of a delay due to an accident somewhere, and I pray that my newly-driving grandson is not on the road in the vicinity.
These public service announcements have given me cause to contrast Israel and Britain in at least one respect that leaves our situation here wanting.
A UK public service announcement has a man (or a woman) plaintively describing how someone suffered chest pains and decided not to call an ambulance but to "wait and see."
The tone of voice and the fact that this is described in the past leaves no doubt of the tragic outcome. The announcement closes with a forceful message not to delay but to summon an ambulance right away, without fear of embarrassment should the symptoms turn out not to be those of a heart attack but merely indigestion.
THOUGH THE ambulance service in Britain may be sometimes slower, although no less professional and caring, than ours, it is has the great advantage of being free. In fact, when I was nursing my terminally ill sister I was able to call an ambulance on two occasions to assist me in lifting her into bed. Should such a service be available here, how many of the old, frail and ill, and their carers, would avoid being hospitalized due to falls?
Here if one calls an ambulance, unless you are kept in hospital for 24 hours you are billed and have to pay.
It is a known fact that the sooner you receive treatment for a heart attack or stroke, the better your chances of survival. Yet countless people here, on feeling the dread twinge in their chest or the giddiness and confusion that presages a stroke, must decide to "wait and see" because they are unable to afford the cost of an ambulance, or possibly even the cost of a taxi, to go to the nearest hospital emergency department.
I wonder if statistics are available on the number of people who could have been saved had they not had to wait until it became plain that they were, in fact, suffering a life-threatening condition.
THE AMBULANCE service could be made a free service if Magen David Adom were incorporated into a defense unit. Many MDA volunteers are doing national service as alternative to going into the IDF. Why could this not be formalized? The paid MDA staff need not fear for their jobs; indeed, it would give them job security as they would be on the permanent staff, much like standing army soldiers.
This could be extended to the Fire Service, which you also have to pay for - and how may people wait until the fire is out of control because of that? A number of haredim could be drafted into service. In both services, after suitable training, the time spent on call in waiting could be used for study.
To conform with haredi susceptibilities, segregating the sexes need not be a problem. And as saving life is the greatest mitzva and overrides even the sanctity of Shabbat, it would give every boy and girl the opportunity to serve their country while observing Torah values.
During both world wars it became acceptable for conscientious objectors to serve as ambulance drivers and stretcher-bearers. Although it might stretch the mind to envisage trendy, lefty Peace Now-niks serving alongside ultra-Orthodox youth, maybe working in close contact for a shared purpose would give each group a chance to appreciate the finer sides of the other's character and open them to each other's views.
It sounds inappropriate to talk about "killing two birds with one stone," and perhaps it should be saving two birds on one branch. But whatever image we choose we need to have a society where no one dies of a heart attack because of lack of funds, and we need to have a society that welcomes the service of our youth in keeping with their beliefs and abilities.
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