Calls to "995" requesting an ambulance have continued to climb in tandem with an ageing population.
Last year, the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) responded to 155,781 ambulance calls, a 3.7 per cent increase from 2013.
On average, there were three calls every 10 minutes - more than twice the 1.3 calls every 10 minutes in 2000. Emergency cases made up the bulk of the calls received by the SCDF last year.
Releasing the statistics yesterday, SCDF medical department director Yazid Abdullah said the rise in emergency calls is largely a result of growing demand for ambulance service from an ageing population.
While the elderly make up about 11.2 per cent of the population, 37.2 per cent of emergency calls that the SCDF responded to last year were for the elderly, and these calls have steadily gone up over the years, he added.
To meet the growing demand, the SCDF has been engaging private operators since 2009 to supplement its ambulance fleet. Today, a total of 20 private emergency ambulances are contracted to operate alongside 30 similar SCDF ambulances islandwide.
The private vehicles, belonging to Unistrong Technology, Lentor Ambulance and Hope Ambulance, have to deliver the same standard of emergency medical care as those under the SCDF.
Paramedics from the private operators also have to comply with the same protocols as SCDF officers and are subject to the same certification tests.
"The public will not experience any difference in the level of service provided by an SCDF or private ambulance," said Col Yazid.
"Since we've introduced them in 2009, they've proven to be reliable and effective in delivering the same standard as SCDF paramedics, and they've contributed to the overall improvement in our response time," he added.
Last year, the SCDF responded to 83.1 per cent of ambulance calls within 11 minutes, an improvement over 79.2 per cent in 2013.
Former SCDF deputy commissioner Tan Jin Thong told The Straits Times he supported the move to use private operators.
"If the SCDF can increase its fleet and achieve a higher target (of response time), then it is good for Singaporeans.
"We can expect more emergency cases due to the greying population," he added.
Last year, 95.4 per cent of the 995 calls were emergency cases. There were 2,829 false alarms and 4,406 non-emergency calls.
This article was first published on January 31, 2015.
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