Emergency medical services in France are provided by a mix of organisations under public health control, with the lead taken by a central control function called SAMU, which stands for ‘Service d’Aide Médicale Urgente’ or urgent medical aid service.
This central hub is supported by resources including first response vehicles or ambulances provided by the fire service and physician led ambulance provision from SMUR (Service Mobile d’Urgence et Reanimation – literally translated as mobile emergency and resuscitation service) which are ‘mobile intensive care units’ (MICU) that have one or more physicians on board.
The central component of SAMU is the dispatch centre where a medical regulation team of physicians and assistants has the task of:
• analysing calls to decide on patient need
• deciding the best solution for the patient’s care
• dispatching the most appropriate mobile care resource (MICU, Ambulance, or Mobile care professional), or
• directing the patient to an alternative fixed resource such as primary care medical surgery or hospital service, or
• offering care advice over the telephone
SAMU is organised at the ‘Département’ level, with each Department organising its own service.
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