Fire chiefs question medical response times after ‘sweeping changes’ to system

Fire chiefs question medical response times after ‘sweeping changes’ to system

New system drops View Royal Fire Rescue’s medical aid response calls dramatically

West Shore fire chiefs have concerns with how fire departments and BC Ambulance respond to calls after changes were rolled out by BC Emergency Health Services in June.

View Royal Fire Chief Paul Hurst said he has been trying to get a better explanation of the new Clinical Response Model since the changes were announced on June 8, without success. Some of Hurst’s concerns stem from the re-prioritization of clinical outcome calls.

“These sweeping changes were implemented overnight and there was no consultation with the majority of the province’s fire departments,” Hurst said. “We need to better understand the rationale behind these changes.”

At issue is a shift in what’s considered emergency calls and clarification is needed, he added. “We’ve had a 69 per cent drop in medical aid response calls in the first month of compliance,” Hurst said. “Our concern for View Royal residents is that the fire department is in the building 24 hours a day. If you have a medical emergency, you should receive the quickest response possible.”

Hurst is hopeful that a meeting on Sept. 26 that brings together members of the Greater Victoria Fire Chiefs Association with representatives from the BCEHS will provide further explanation. “I’m looking forward to hearing their perspective,” Hurst added.

Metchosin Fire Chief Stephanie Dunlop said the changes affect her community as well. “I hope the meeting provides clarification and deals with our concerns.”

Shannon Miller, communications officer for the BCEHS, confirmed that BCEHS chief transformation officer Nancy Kotani, Neil Lilley, BCEHS senior provincial director of patient care, and Blaine Wiggins, manager for the first responders will be in attendance to provide an overview of the Clinical Response Model and answer questions. BCEHS doctors Sandra Jenneson and John Tallon will join by teleconference as well. Lilley said in an interview with the Gazette that the BCEHS has held meetings with fire service and fire chief associations., including the Lower Mainland, as part of a collaborative response to changes to the clinical response model. ”We really appreciate the fire departments’ efforts in making themselves available to medical calls,” he said. “Part of the changes we’ve implemented ensures that fire services are available when we really need them to respond to time-critical calls.” The upcoming meeting will provide an opportunity to educate and show the progress the BCEHS is making since the changes were implemented, and to reassure them that the changes have been positive in terms of patient care, he added.

The new system, Clinical Response Model, was introduced to guide dispatchers in assigning resources to 911 calls, BCEHS said in a statement. The changes were made to ensure faster response times to urgent medical emergencies, and to better match resources to patients with non-urgent conditions. “We are getting to the most life-threatening and urgent calls faster in many communities, with the help of firefighters, who are part of our first responder program. BCEHS has recently added more paramedics, more ambulances and more dispatch staff to ensure the best, the most efficient care possible is delivered,” the statement said.


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rickstiebel@goldstreamgazette.com