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Over 6000 calls a day?

TETRA takes the strain for Qatar’s ambulance service.

Qatar-Ambulance_Photo_4 (1).jpgWith a population of some 2.5 million, Qatar may be a small nation but is also a wealthy and sophisticated one, with services and infrastructure to match. One of these is Hamad Medical Corporation’s Ambulance Service, which deploys over 100 vehicles a day to support the emergency medical needs of the community.

Responsible for patient-carrying ambulances, critical care paramedic units, major incident units, hazmat units and three helicopters, the ambulance service has a number of duties. These include responding to medical emergencies in Qatar, patient transport, interfacility transport, the mobile doctor service and medical repatriation.

As such, it needs an excellent communications system to keep all these staff in touch with the dispatch centres. The ambulance service is highly dependent on verbal communication between units and between units and the controllers.

The most common type of communication is between ambulances and the dispatcher, discussing the condition of the patients or confirming directions to a call. Another typical example is communication between on-the-scene clinical staff seeking advice from the Clinical Team leader based in the control room. Security and redundancy are therefore paramount.

A nationwide network

To meet these needs, the ambulance service has used a nationwide TETRA network since 2006, employing 250 Airbus TETRA radios - TH1n, THR9i , THR880i and TMR880i. Of its 2,000 staff, executives are assigned their own radios, while field staff are assigned a radio according to operational call signs.

Two control rooms are employed to coordinate the ambulance teams’ responses, one with the National Command Center for emergency response and another control room for resources not directly related to emergencies.

An important feature of the TETRA network and radios is the ability to easily structure talk groups into meaningful operational areas to ensure communication is not affected by congestion.

The service can also easily shift resources away from daily operational talk groups to dedicated talk groups in the event of a significant incident.

Full and half-duplex features are also important to the service. TETRA has enabled direct communication via full duplex between the elements of the command structure, making it easy for everyone to be aware of the situation and decreasing dependency on mobile phones.

One of the most significant benefits of using the TETRA system has been its ability to support the ambulance service as demand grows. The service has seen an increase in calls of over 20% each year, placing a significant load on the communication platform.

Advanced paging

Plans are also in hand to make staff alerts more efficient and effective by deploying the TETRA P8GR from Airbus Defence and Space. The ambulance service has an extensive call roster that could benefit from paging and there are plans to use them in the country’s hospitals to notify them of major medical incidents. The Ministry of the Interior is researching the best solution for sending and receiving messages from the devices to the control centres.

Hospitals are also now using TETRA terminals. This posed a challenge in familiarizing non-radio users with both the TETRA terminals and in correct radio communications procedures.

This is very different from talking on a phone and most of the hospital staff had never previously used a radio in a professional context.

The service is also closely collaborating with MOI Telecommunications on expanding its use of TETRA to include such functionality as TETRA LTE and PTT on smartphones and whatever other solutions can help the service to improve.

As Qatar develops its society and infrastructure and faces new responsibilities and pressures, its TETRA network will be there to help take the strain.