Surrey firefighters dispute Ambulance Service claims

Fire department union says better solutions needed for improved patient care in emergencies

I read the April 14, 2014 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 patient care and comfort make a difference to patients and their loved ones. In the research 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 Fraser Valley (UFV) evaluates the response times of 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 you have stated, the protocol changes are contentious, but you don’t acknowledge that is for good reason. I have witnessed the lower level of patient care, firsthand.

As indicated by a UFV research project, 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 of 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 McNamaraPresident, Local 1271Surrey Fire Fighters Association

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