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Brussels paramedics struggle to keep up with record number of emergency calls

08:53 27/02/2023

The number of emergency ambulance responses carried out by the Brussels fire brigade increased by more than 57% in the 10 years between 2012 and 2022, with firefighters warning the public that the situation is getting out of control.

“In 10 years, we have experienced a difference of 36,495 additional ambulance interventions,” said union spokesman Eric Labourdette. “At this rate, it is impossible to continue to provide relief without putting other relief in danger.”

Without changes, he said, “the situation will quickly become untenable for the firefighters".

Ambulances were sent out 100,204 times last year compared with 63,700 times in 2012, the SLFP-SIAMU union official said.

“People ask for an ambulance for anything and everything because they think it's faster,” Labourdette said. “We do a lot fewer emergency trips.”

He urged emergency responders on the 112 service to be more discerning about whether it was necessary to send an ambulance at all.

Labourdette said that it was essential to increase the number of firefighters on duty day-to-day – a move at odds with the broader trend towards cutting spending on public services.

“This situation is not good for the population and understaffing puts staff at risk during interventions,” he said.

“If this continues, accidents will happen. I have the impression that the management and even the politicians no longer know what to do.”

Written by Paul Millar