Delta is providing emergency care on its own

Editor:

Re. Simple geography puts Delta firefighters at scene quicker, Community Comment, June 24

By focusing on ambulance response times, Tom Siba is missing the point of B.C. Emergency Health Services’ concern with Delta council’s unilateral expansion of firefighters’ role in providing enhanced emergency care.

First, this dispute isn’t about who arrives on the scene first. Firefighters often get to an emergency scene quicker and we greatly appreciate the care they provide, especially with acutely sick or injured patients. We work closely with fire departments, and consider them our partners in care.

Second, this dispute isn’t about ambulance response times. Siba erroneously suggests ambulance response times have deteriorated since 2013 when we made operational changes. In fact, from 2013/14 to 2014/15 in Delta, our response times improved by 18 seconds for emergency calls (to 13 minutes, 15 seconds), and by 48 seconds for non-emergency calls (to 23 minutes, 9 seconds). We are getting to sicker patients faster and we are saving lives as a result.

Third, this dispute isn’t about whether firefighters should provide enhanced emergency care. We are actively working with fire departments to allow for expanded services for firefighters, with a coordinated and planned approach, and have formed a collaborative working group representing 21 municipalities in the Lower Mainland. Delta has been repeatedly invited to participate but to date has declined.

Indeed, the real issue is whether Delta should be providing enhanced emergency care on its own, outside the health system, without coordinating with B.C. Emergency Health Services. All we’re asking Delta is to coordinate our response efforts, and to coordinate on important issues of physician-oversight, licensing and review, for the good of patients.

For example, our paramedics enjoy 24/7 access to a dedicated team of physicians to guide what they do on scene. Because Delta is acting on its own outside the health care system, their firefighters do not have access to this same physician-oversight. Furthermore, patients treated by Delta firefighters will not have access to the independent quality review done by B.C. Emergency Health Services should they have concerns.

Delta firefighters have taken a 15-day training course to provide enhanced emergency care, however they are not experienced at this level and have not worked under the supervision of physicians at B.C. Emergency Health Services where much of the learning takes place. Virtually all our paramedics responding to calls in Delta have a higher level of training and considerably more experience.

We have invited Delta to work with us so we can oversee the services provided, provide firefighters the benefit of our physician-oversight and the associated benefits to patients of working cooperatively inside the health system. We are hopeful they will join us, rather than work outside the health system.

The only way forward is for all parties to work collaboratively and find solutions together. We continue to urge Delta to join us and 21 other Lower Mainland municipalities in developing a plan to enhance pre-hospital care that incorporates first responders while protecting patient safety.

Linda Lupini
Executive Vice President
B.C. Emergency Health Services

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