Firefighters at Delta Firehall No. 1 take part in spinal management training. A new department initiative would allow firefighters to provide life-saving medical aid on 911 calls.

Delta’s fire department seeks to administer ‘enhanced’ medical aid

The initiative would allow firefighters to provide potentially life-saving medical aid on 911 calls

Delta is vying to become the first municipality in B.C. to allow its fire department to provide enhanced medical procedures ordinarily restricted to BC Ambulance paramedics during 911 calls.

The idea was first floated at a meeting between Health Minister Terry Lake and Delta’s fire chief Dan Copeland, Mayor Lois Jackson, and senior members of the local government at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in Vancouver last month.

Delta will now send the province a First Responder Consent and Indemnity Agreement that would allow its firefighters to provide enhanced medical aid.

The province’s Emergency Health Service Act has been recently amended to allow firefighters to collaborate with the province in determining what level of health services are necessary.

In a study of first responders times in Delta, Copeland said 59 per cent of the time firefighters arrive three minutes prior to BC Ambulance. The enhanced medical aid would be provided in that “time lag” between firefighters arriving and BC Ambulance responding.

“So what we’re looking to do is increase our scope of practice… providing Entonox, which is pain relief gas for patients, do blood pressure, pulse oximeters, splinting, wide range of airway management, as well as I.V. management,” Copeland told Delta Council last week.

Only two other jurisdictions in B.C. have received permission from the province allowing its firefighters to provide emergency medical assistance. Fire Departments in Prince George and Sun Peaks outside of Kamloops participated in a pilot project headed by the Emergency Health Services Commission in 2011 and 2012.

“It is groundbreaking in the fact we’re not asking to do a pilot project, we’re asking the health minister and the commission to approve us to actually work to the level of our license through the Emergency Medical Assistance Act,” said Copeland.

Currently, during a 911 call the person is asked to specify the emergency by fire, ambulance, or police. Only after a series of followup questions does a 911 call trigger a “first responder” to alert all three emergency services.

The new agreement would have firefighters simultaneously dispatched during a 911 call, regardless of what service the caller specified.

Mayor Lois Jackson said that since the fire department is no farther than three to five minutes away from an accident at any given time, it’s appropriate they should be allowed to respond first to medical emergencies.

“We hear a lot of these instances where people are on the ground, so to speak, and through no fault of [BC Ambulance], they’re not able to get there for anywhere from five minutes, 10 minutes, 25 minutes, even longer has been experienced,” she said.

Chief administrative officer George Harvie said that the training will also be useful in the event of a natural catastrophe.

“The public is going to be expecting that service from their fire department, the ambulance services aren’t going to be able to get to everybody, especially during an earthquake,” he said.

The current annual budget for the fire department budget is approximately $22 million. Harvie said the new agreement wouldn’t cost taxpayers any additional money.

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