Ambulances & Vehicle Ops, News, Operations

Tomasz Roginski, Head of the Gdansk Motorcycle Response Unit, Discusses the Origins of Motorcycle EMS in Poland

I became a paramedic in 2000 and one year later, I started working on an emergency ambulance (“R” class in Poland). My colleague Dr. Piotr Kołodziej and I often thought about how much more convenient it would be to use motorcycles to get to patients in a more timely manner. 

In 2002, Piotr made a friend at the local Harley Davidson dealer who donated a Harley Davidson Dyna Super Glide T Sport for a three-month trial with Gdansk (Poland) EMS.

To get the motorcycle into service, we had to improvise many things that are standard on an EMS motorcycle today. We painted the regular white fog lights blue to make the emergency lights, we found a secondhand siren that we affixed to the bike that was much larger than it should’ve been—since it was meant for a car—and we didn’t have proper motorcycle clothing, only an old helmet I had laying around. 

It was my first time riding such a big motorcycle. Until that time, my experience was riding small 350cc motorcycles. We didn’t have a proper rider training program, so it was basically just “get on and go.” My first ride on this big bike was with a passenger who was filming the experience for a local television station.

For this first trial period, we rode with two emergency personnel on the bike: a paramedic and an EMS doctor. Our EMS Harley was equipped with all the equipment found on a high-level “R” class ambulance, except the stretcher and the infusion pump. With the equipment, two large riders and the bike, it was about half a ton moving through the city streets in traffic with improvised lights and siren. 

Continued Growth

We decided to continue the program for a second year with a few changes. The bike would only have one emergency responder—either a paramedic or doctor who was comfortable riding a bike—and we upgraded the improvised lights and siren to something with better visibility and sound. It was easier to maneuver through traffic, but working alone was a totally different experience than anyone was accustomed to. 

In 2003, our MRU participated in the Polish National EMS Competition and we finished with a respectably good standing, proving to the Polish EMS community that and EMS bike does have a place in EMS services in Poland.

After we met with our Hungarian colleague through IMRUA who was riding a new Honda ST1300, I decided that the future of the Gdansk MRU was going to be on a similar type of bike. It handled well, was comfortable and could store more equipment. 

In 2012, we realized that goal by finding sponsors. With some money and support from the local EMS service and from the sale of the Harley, Gdansk EMS acquired a new Honda ST1300. After two years one of the city council politicians found funding for a second Honda ST1300, which now makes up the full fleet of Gdansk EMS MRUs.

Gdansk MRU Operations

There are now nine motorcycle paramedics in Gdansk. The Gdansk MRUs operate from the beginning of June to the end of August. In 2018, we hope to operate from the beginning of May to the end of September. Between June 1 through August 31, two motorcycles are on duty every day during daylight hours.

In Poland, there are four professional MRU teams, with two new teams starting this year for a total of six in various cities around Poland. If the Polish government enacts a proposed EMS law, all communities with a population of 200,000 or more will be required to have one MRU in operation from May 1 through Sept. 30 starting in 2018, and all communities with a population of 400,000 or more will have at least two units in operation during that same timeframe.

International Fire & EMS MRU Congress

The 5th biannual International Fire and EMS Motorcycle Response Unit Association (IMRUA) Congress is being held in Gdansk, Poland, Sept. 22–24, 2017. If your department could benefit from the use of motorcycle response units (MRUs), then this congress is for you. Along with providing actual exposure to MRUs and their riders from around the world, other topics such as emergency caesarean section in an unsalvageable poly-traumatic patient will be presented. For more information about our organization and the 2017 IMRUA Congress, please visit www.imrua.eu.