Paramedics and first aiders in British Columbia will soon be able to provide more life-saving treatment, the county’s health minister said Friday, along with announcing an increase in mental health support for relief workers.
Adrian Dix said the province is expanding the care and treatment that paramedics can provide, including using portable ultrasound to assess patients, administer needle decompression for breast trauma or providing life-saving medication.
“When you call 911 and it’s an emergency, you need to know that first aiders can help you with any health care they are trained, licensed and able to deliver,” Dix said at a news conference Friday.
Firefighters will be allowed to use additional diagnostic tests, such as checking blood pressure and blood sugar, or administering medication in a life-threatening allergic reaction.
The new measures, announced Friday, come after BC said in July that it was reviewing the ambulance service to reduce waiting times for the most serious 911 calls following complaints of long delays during medical emergencies.
At the time, Dix said calls had risen dramatically during a record-breaking heat wave this summer that killed nearly 600 people as paramedics were already under pressure from the overdose crisis.
“What we’ve seen in the last year is an increase, not only in ambulance calls in general, but more importantly, the increase in what we call purple and red calls – the most serious calls that emergency services deal with. And we are to respond to it in the best way we can – by improving services … by adding resources where resources are needed, “said Dix.
Chairman of the BC Firefighters Association, Gord Ditchburn, said the changes are “critical” to patient care in BC
“We’ve been talking about this for a long time,” Ditchburn said.
“Firefighters who respond to incidents where they wait for significant periods for ambulance paramedics will now be able to gather diagnostic information that will help the patient and, with medical supervision, be able to offer immediate treatment and interventions.”
Dix said the province will work with training institutions, firefighters and ambulance personnel to get the process started.
The government has also added 85 full-time paramedics, 65 seconded and 22 new ambulances, all of which will be fully operational by the end of 2022, the minister said.
The changes stem from recommendations from the licensing board to emergency medical assistants to provide better outcomes for patients in need of emergency health care.
E-Comm, the agency that oversees the 911 sending system in BC, said Wednesday that the sender will no longer wait on the phone with callers until help arrives in an attempt to answer calls faster.
Last month, Dix said lessons need to be learned from what happened this summer and that a death assessment panel is expected to make recommendations to the forensic pathologist and the government next spring.
He said the budget for the ambulance service has gone from $ 424 million to $ 559 million since 2017, when it hired more paramedics and dispatchers and bought dozens of ambulances.