More ambulance calls were made to the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) in the first six months of the year, driven by an ageing population.
Mid-year statistics released by the SCDF yesterday showed that its emergency medical services responded to 81,686 calls between January and June this year, a 7.4 per cent increase over the same period last year. This half-year figure is also the highest in 15 years.
The SCDF attributed the spike to the growing demand for ambulance services from an ageing population. To cope, it will increase its fleet of emergency ambulances from 50 now to 80 by 2018.
Emergency calls made up about 94 per cent of the total calls responded. Of those, three out of every four were medical-related.
About 4 per cent - or 3,453 - were non-emergency calls - more than double that in the same period last year. The rest were false alarms.
The SCDF also urged the public to treat its staff with respect.
In the first half of the year, there were 10 cases of SCDF staff being physically or verbally abused while attending to patients.
The culprits included the patients themselves, or their family members. There were six such cases in the same period last year.
Noting that its emergency medical services personnel save lives by providing critical emergency care, the SCDF warned that it does not condone abuse against its officers, and will lodge police reports against culprits.
Separately, private ambulance operators have also seen greater demand for their services.
Hope Ambulance Service operations manager Simon Low said calls went up by about 20 per cent this year. Its clients are mostly elderly, and the calls are for non-emergency cases such as hospital visits for routine check-ups.
As the population greys, community support is crucial, said Mr Kavin Seow, director of Touch Community Services' home-care service.
The elderly should be connected to relevant agencies such as seniors activity centres near their homes so a "tight network" of support is in place, he said.
"Many of the elderly live alone and may not receive much-needed help, if at all, in a timely manner," he noted.
Mr Seow added that the most common emergency situations are a result of falls or medical-related. The elderly should install home modifications for safety, such as hand rails, he advised.
The SCDF also urged the public to visit its website for information on how to tell if a situation is an emergency medical case, even though the percentage of non-emergency calls "remained low".
It said: "Such calls could place unnecessary strain on the SCDF's emergency medical services resources and deprive those who are in genuine need of emergency medical assistance."
This article was first published on August 26, 2015. Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.