Ministry Studying Feasibility of Having Female Nurses in Ambulances
Maha Akeel, Arab News Staff
JEDDAH, 9 February 2004 — The Ministry of Health and the Saudi Red Crescent Society are studying the feasibility of having female nurses and paramedics in ambulances.

“The issue has been under study for some time because there is a need in our society for female paramedics and nurses in ambulances, especially in cases of birth or other emergencies and accidents in which women are involved,” said a source at the Red Crescent Society.

The main obstacle to implementing the decision of having female paramedics in an ambulance is the requirement that women be accompanied by a mahram (male guardian) and also the possibility of having to go to remote locations. It is, however, exactly in those situations that female paramedics are most needed because of limited access to health facilities for women requiring medical care and also a lack of awareness of the need for urgent medical intervention.

“It is difficult even to suggest alternatives such as female paramedics being non-Muslim because the idea itself of female paramedics is unacceptable to some,” a source told Arab News. On the other hand, a woman’s male relatives often will not allow male paramedics to treat her. “This is a problem we have faced many times. In one incident, for example, a wife died in front of the paramedics’ eyes while they stood helpless because her husband threatened them with a weapon if they came near his wife.”

The matter requires cooperation between the Ministry of Health and the Red Crescent Society in seeking a solution in accordance with Saudi traditions. The Red Crescent has forwarded a proposal for training women as paramedics in their training centers which already offer first-aid training to women.

Final decisions may have to be made by top government officials working with the Red Crescent and the Ministry of Health, the source pointed out.