The Corporation of Delta has taken the lead in training its firefighters to provide enhanced medical assistance on calls they attend. The reason is there have been concerns expressed about the long wait times for an ambulance to show up.
In South Delta, it is obvious there is going to be a delay for Tsawwassen just due to geography. The ambulances are based in the civic centre in Ladner, so it will take at least 10 minutes for the ambulances to get down Highway 17A to Tsawwassen.
But the long wait times are not strictly a Delta issue. A contributing factor to delays throughout the Lower Mainland is thought to be operational changes made by the B.C. Ambulance Service in the latter part of 2013. An analysis of calls had shown that rapid response to ambulance calls had only made
a significant positive difference in cases of cardiac arrest, respiratory arrest and total airway obstruction.
These were classed as Code 3 calls, which entailed flashing lights and sirens deployed on the way to the incident. These calls had the highest priority.
Code 2 calls require no flashing lights or sirens en route to the call. (I am not sure what a Code 1 call means - probably no rush, finish your coffee.)
An analysis by the Surrey firefighters showed wait times for Code 2 calls had doubled since the changes were made. Regardless of the changes, in Tsawwassen the firefighters are almost always going to be at a call first since they have a 15-minute head start on the ambulance service since the fire station on 12th Avenue is located in the middle of the community.
Hence the upgrading of the firefighters skill level to include more first aid functions. So far only Delta has implemented the training to allow our firefighters to carry out functions such as handling IVs and providing pain medication where necessary while waiting for an ambulance to arrive.
It is a decision that has not gone over well with the pre-hospital
bureaucracy. Delta council has managed to get the provincial health ministry, labour unions and management of the emergency entities up in arms.
Minister of Health Terry Lake is opposed to the Delta initiative as there are issues around liability and patient safety. (Apparently leaving patients with trauma untreated is keeping them safe.) Bronwyn Barter, president of the Ambulance Paramedics of B.C. CUPE Local 873, well, you know what CUPE is after and it isn't the well being of those who pay their salaries. Barter thinks more paramedics should be hired.
Linda Lupini, executive vice president of B.C. Emergency Health Services, said in an interview with Global TV that Delta doesn't understand the complexity of the issue. Her solution? Well, after being on this file for a year, she will have a report from a "U.K." group by the end of July.
I might not see the complexity either, but I am beginning to see the problem. A shout out to mayor, council and the Delta firefighters.
Tom Siba is an ex-publisher of the Delta Optimist who fortunately hasn't been subject of any Code 3 calls - yet.