The general coordination of Emergency Medical Care rests with the Federal Public Service Public Health, Food chain safety and Environment (FPS Health). Individual and/or collective crisis situations are reported to central emergency number 112. On receipt of an incident report, the emergency call handlers send out the relevant emergency services to deal with the incident in question.
Depending on the seriousness of the incident, the following services are mobilised:
- an ambulance (manned by emergency care assistants - ambulance officers)
- a Paramedical Intervention Team (PIT - an ambulance with an emergency care nurse on board)
- a Mobile Emergency Group (MEG) - manned by an emergency physician and an emergency nurse).
Pending the arrival of the specialist team, the emergency call handlers manning the 112 switchboard can instruct the caller on how to provide life-saving assistance (Phone CPR). Once the first care has been administered, the victims are taken to a hospital that has a specialised accident & emergency department.
Cross-border emergency care implies that ambulances can be dispatched across the borders if there is no ambulance on hand in the country itself. Within this context, Belgium has already signed a treaty with the Netherlands, Luxembourg and France respectively. With Germany, a specific agreement for one federal state is in place.
The FPS Health is in charge of the medical-sanitary actors dealing with disaster relief. To that effect, the FPS draws up emergency plans, the so-called monodisciplinary plans, which describe how the alarm is to be raised, which services should be deployed, etc.
Various types of emergency plans have been put in place:
- medical intervention plans
- psycho-social intervention plans
- sanitary intervention plans
- a risk-assessment tool for demonstrations and events.
The FPS Health furthermore draws up multidisciplinary emergency plans in collaboration with other Federal Public Services and the intervention services which specify how the various intervention services should collaborate to keep an emergency situation under control.
During major incidents, the FPS Health also looks after the coordination of the medical-sanitary services in the field. The service can be contacted 24/7 and is in a position to send various coordinators to the site of a disaster to take charge of the situation. Finally, the FPS Health also follows up any infectious disease alerts issued by international partners (cf. International Health Regulation, EU treaties…).
The Belgian First Aid and Support Team (B-FAST) is a fast-acting intervention service operated by the Belgian authorities which, at the request of a foreign nation, springs into action when disaster strikes on foreign soil. B-Fast exclusively carries out humanitarian missions during unarmed conflicts, such as dispatching an Urban Search and Rescue team or setting up a field hospital, etc.
Within this interdepartmental structure, the FPS Public Health concerns itself with the medical-sanitary aspects, such as medical care for its own team members, the establishment of an advanced medical post or field hospital, clean water supplies…. Aside from a limited group of staff, the FPS Public Health also calls on the services of many trained volunteers who can be deployed to international missions at short notice. Cf. http://b-fast.diplomatie.be/
The FPS Health also sees to it that the various actors develop the correct competences in the three aforementioned fields so that they can take appropriate action when any real incidents occur. It for instance organises various courses and training programmes tailored to the individual target groups. To ensure that the various actors at operational and at policy level are properly prepared for any large-scale incidents, it also regularly organises drills.
Expert guidance ensures that the learning process is a qualitative one for all concerned.
Monitoring, quality and evaluation
Common Community Commission (Brussels):
With regards to crisis care, the capacity of the Common Community Commission is limited. Concerning urgent medical assistance the MOBILE URGENCE GROUP (MUG) functions are recognized by the Common Community Commission. In case of crisis interventions like e.g. the bird flu, there is a close cooperation between our health inspectors, the other communities and regions, coordinated by the federal authority.