Letters to the Editor

First responder delays have doubled

A letter writer emphasizes the importance of first responders in emergency medical care. - Leader file photo
A letter writer emphasizes the importance of first responders in emergency medical care.
— image credit: Leader file photo

I read the April 14 article “Cities urged to match slower ambulance response” and feel compelled to take issue on a few points.

In my role as a first responder I have experienced how patient care and comfort make a difference to patients and their loved ones. In the research BC Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) reports to have completed, patient comfort is not a consideration, nor is the effect of first responders, as their measures begin with the arrival of BC Ambulance.

A third-party research paper recently completed by the University of the Fraser Valley (UFV) evaluates the response times of BC Ambulance Service (BCAS) and fire to medical calls. The Surrey Fire Department follows the Code 2 or “routine response” protocols as determined by the BCAS dispatch. Surrey Fire Department does not deviate in any manner as implied in the story.

As the article stated, the protocol changes are contentious, but you the story doesn’t acknowledge that is for good reason. I have witnessed the lower level of patient care, firsthand.

As indicated by UFV research, the gap in response time has not been created by fire unnecessarily rushing to 35 per cent of the calls. I cannot speak for all municipalities, but in Surrey we are conforming to the changes and following BCAS protocols on emergency and non-emergency calls.

George Papadoupolous’ statement that if first responders went routine there would be no difference in delay time is untrue. Both Surrey and Vancouver have been responding routine and both have experienced delays which are roughly double what was previous.

BCEHS attempts to justify the controversial changes in protocols by suggesting the worst-case patients that are known to be worst case receive more rapid response.  What about the patients that are not known to be worst case by telephone diagnosis, patient conditions deteriorating, or scene hazards that we often find on our arrival?

We continue to have concerns around this very important issue. I sincerely hope the attention drawn to this matter will result in truly objective measures that result in better patient care; before now that has not been the case.

In my view, if BCEHS does not value or want to consider a greater role for first responders the only alternative is adding more ambulances on the street – which may not necessarily be the most efficient or effective use of existing resources.

 

Mike McNamara

President, Local 1271

Surrey Fire Fighters Association

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