During the morning of last Tuesday, two paramedics staged an embarrassing show on Boyacá Avenue, between the towns of Usme and Ciudad Bolívar, in the south of Bogotá.
After the report of a vehicle accident with an injured person, the ambulance service was requested to the scene of the accident. According to a video shared by a social media user, four teams of paramedics from different companies responded to the call and arrived at the same time.
While the wounded man was waiting for the help for which the service had been requested, the paramedics from two ambulances began a fight to prevent the other from taking the wounded man to a care center.
The health professionals punched, kicked and even pulled their hair during their confrontation. The traffic agents who attended the incident and the companions of their respective ambulances tried to separate them, before the eyes of the curious who recorded with their cell phones.
One of the women who participated in the fight reacted by hitting her own colleague. He responded to her aggression and reproach by saying that “that’s not what it’s about” and that, in the case of a woman, she should show politeness.
The paramedic from the other ambulance, who was visibly smaller than the first, insisted several times to the traffic officer that the woman had started fighting with her since she arrived at the scene of the accident. The video does not show which of the four ambulances picked up the patient.
When the Blu Radio station contacted the Ministry of Health to ask if corrective measures would be taken against the women involved, they replied that the women involved work for private companies, so they only have the power to send warnings to those companies.
Fights between paramedics to attend traffic accidents are not a new phenomenon. Eleven months ago another fight occurred between two health professionals in Barranquilla for picking up two injured people, since the personnel of both ambulances intended to take them both away in the same vehicle.
The Mandatory Traffic Accident Insurance (SOAT) is paid once a year and is, as its name indicates, a requirement to drive on the streets of Colombia. This insurance guarantees that, in the event of an accident, there is comprehensive medical assistance or compensation for drivers and passengers of the insured vehicle, as well as for affected cyclists or pedestrians.
That is what the big print says about these insurances, which are only paid for by one out of every two Colombian drivers. The fine print, which could explain the spat between the two paramedics, is that insurance companies pay IPS more quickly for their services than health service providers (EPS), which can sometimes owe large sums of money for long periods.
In fact, according to the Colombian Association of Hospitals and Clinics, the current debt of EPS to hospitals amounts to $2 billion pesos. The accumulated debt for SOAT services, on the other hand, is $189,650 million; barely a quarter.
This efficiency could be the origin of cases of corruption. The common people have the hypothesis that some IPS would pay sums of money below the rope to paramedical personnel who send them cases covered by a SOAT. However, this hypothesis has not yet been verified. It makes more sense for health service providers to corran who pays -legally- first.