LETTER: BC Ambulance call response process needs clarification

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Re: Nelson Fire Rescue wants to assist first responders (Nelson Star March 19).

A recent article and editorial published in this paper contain several inaccuracies regarding changes to BC Ambulance Service’s (BCAS) call response process that I would like to correct in order to provide a balanced perspective.

The article states that Nelson Fire Rescue (NFR) has experienced a recent reduction in the number of emergencies firefighters have been notified of, and therefore responded to, as a result of BCAS changes. I want to clarify that the only change BCAS has implemented is how ambulances drive to some calls and what type of ambulances are dispatched. What has not changed is the role first responders play in providing pre-hospital care or the notification of first responders for medical calls. I would also like to assure your readers that an ambulance will continue to respond to emergencies each and every time one is requested.

To date, NFR has not approached BCAS to discuss general concerns or specific calls. We take any concerns with the provision of patient care very seriously and we will be contacting NFR to investigate these instances further.

The provincial government’s innovation and change plan for the health care sector is about meeting patient needs appropriately, while ensuring value for money.

As the agency responsible for pre-hospital care, it’s our mandate to ensure that patients receive timely and safe care, but also that we are using resources efficiently. It’s important that each agency strive for high quality patient care and appropriate resource stewardship.

In 2013, BC Emergency Health Service (BCEHS) undertook a review of the BCAS Resource Allocation Plan (RAP). BCAS dispatchers use the RAP to determine how many and the type of ambulances that respond to a 911 call, whether lights-and-sirens should be used and if first responders should be notified.

A RAP Review Committee, comprised of physicians, paramedics, dispatchers and first responders, reviewed over 600,000 911 calls and determined the appropriate medical response required for 868 different patient conditions.

The committee found that ambulances were responding with lights and sirens too often for calls that were routine and that first responders were not medically required for many types of routine calls. BCEHS is currently consulting with local governments to provide further information on the RAP review process and to better understand the role that municipalities want in providing pre-hospital care.

Dr. William Dick

Vice President of Medical Programs


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