EHS Under Fire for Emergency Response Times
COVID SAFETY PROTOCOL ADDS TO EMERGENCY DELAYS
The death of a woman in Bass River continues to fuel debate over the efficiency of emergency services.
The grieving husband says he performed CPR as best he could while waiting eighty minutes for paramedics. Instead of empathy, EHS argued over the response time.
Aggravating the question is that Medical First Responders (MFRs) with the Bass River Fire Department — about two minutes away — were not called. In fact, as a response to COVID-19 precautions, firefighters are no longer paged for medical emergencies.
The sad event in Bass River has focussed harsh criticism on EHS services which has responded by saying they are short-staffed and paramedics are overworked and not properly compensated.
While more paramedics, ambulances, and EHS stations would certainly help, additional funding is not the only solution. A change in hospital protocol and a return to emergency support from the fire service would dramatically reduce wait times.
Ambulance personnel are regularly detained at hospitals. Current regulations require paramedics to wait with their patients until they are formally handed off within the hospital emergency department, usually to attending physicians. However, that wait is usually long, sometimes many hours of simply waiting in the ER. It is not uncommon to see numerous ambulances lined up at the emergency entrance with some paramedics waiting through an entire shift.
If emergency departments changed policy to quickly accept ambulance parents, the EHS personnel could return to active service.
Meanwhile, fire departments across the province have members specifically trained in emergency medical services. However, they have been ordered to stand down during the coronavirus pandemic as a protective measure to limit the spread of COVID-19.
EHS personnel are now going about the province to train MFRs in COVID related safety protocols, including how to fit a mask. Reports of the training implied that paramedics were training firefighters to help in emergencies, in fact, MFRs are already equipped and the current training is limited to COVID safety.
Officials claim the training effort will take a few months and then the stand down oder could be lifted. However, instead of reaching all MFRs, only six will be trained in each department, a fact that shows little understanding of the nature of volunteer services, especially in rural areas.
Cumberland County Council is concerned about the delay in EHS response and urges a return to back-up service from Medical First Responders.
Deputy Mayor Kathy Redmond raised the issue with council and will lead an effort to have the province change its current policy to improve response times. Redmond noted the current practice may work in urban areas but it shows a lack of understanding of real life practice in rural Nova Scotia.
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