Following a report released on Feb. 27 from the B.C. auditor general detailing B.C. EHS, slow response times and better coordination needed to improve patient care. (Citizen file)

Better coordination needed between EMS and fire first responders

Both sides say data sharing needs to improve

Linda Lupini, executive vice president of B.C. Emergency Health Services says that while coordination between paramedics and firefighters is effective in most communities, the issue is the two services aren’t sharing data.

This comes in response to a report released on Feb. 27 by the B.C. auditor general, who concluded faster response times and more coordination between first responders are needed to improve patient care.

Running from April 2016 to December 2017, the report found ambulances in urban areas reached their nine-minute response time target on 50 per cent of life-threatening calls.

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According to Lupini a new response model was implemented on May 30, 2018 that

“So we have about seven or eight months of data on our new model and it absolutely shows significant improvement in response times,” said Lupini, noting a flag from the auditor general in the release. “They immediately said BCA is adding paramedics … I think they’re acknowledging something different happened in the last seven months.”

Lupini explained under the new response system when a call is received operators ask questions to be able to assign a level of acuity.

“A map opens up for the dispatcher and they see where all our cars are and they send the nearest car for immediately life threatening calls,” she said.

The issue is, according to Lupini, that when a call is received an operator doesn’t have access to fire’s auto vehicle locator information.

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“Right now we notify fire departments automatically, our system just tells them to go because it’s immediately life threatening or potentially life threatening — but we don’t actually know if they respond and we don’t know how close they are,” said Lupini.

Prior to the new response system there were only two categories that an emergency operator could classify calls into — high acuity or medium to low acuity. Now a new software has allowed operates to classify calls into immediately life threatening or potentially life threatening along with the less urgent categories.

“If you’re going on a lower acuity call, your car — if it’s the closest — gets diverted to the life threatening call,” said Lupini. “So that makes a very very big difference for our response times.”

Since implementing the new system at the end of May last year EMHS first responders are arriving on scene to life threatening calls in less than nine minutes, a goal set by the auditor general.

According to Lupini, paramedics arrived on scene before the nine-minute mark 80 per cent of the time in January 2019 and 76.9 per cent of the time in February.

Paul Bruce, Victoria Fire Chief, says the report is a welcomed reminder to all first responders of what still needs to be done.

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“I think it provides a little more clarity on their expectations of the roles of first responders and the emergency services and how to better collaborate all these resources and provide better, more effective and efficient services,” says Bruce.

While the auditor general’s findings didn’t surprise Bruce he agrees data sharing is a top priority.

“I think once everything gets dialed into the dispatch level you’ll see more response focused improvements,” says Bruce.

As a way to help streamline the first responders care, B.C. EMHS has provided alternatives that allow access to the health care system without tying up am ambulance such as referring people to Health Link and having single responders to take on rural areas.

“Vancouver Island in general has had some good benefits of the action plan but Victoria in particular is seeing significant improvement and exceeding all targets at this time,” says Lupini.



kendra.crighton@blackpress.ca

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