One year after council agreed to allow Canmore’s Fire-Rescue service to provide advanced life support (ALS) capable response to medical emergencies, officials are calling the pilot program a success.
But instead of making it a permanent operational change, council voted unanimously this week to continue the pilot program for another two years.
“Canmore Fire-Rescue, in conjunction with Alberta Health Services EMS, has been piloting a one-year ALS capable medical response program to determine the effectiveness and efficiency of providing this level of service to the residents of Canmore,” said manager of protective services. “Staff recommendation is that council approve a two-year extension to the advanced life support capable medical response pilot project.”
Burt explained that more data about the program would be beneficial before administration would be comfortable recommending a permanent change. He also indicated there are implications to negotiations with the firefighters union as a result, but could not provide any more detail at the public meeting.
“A year is a short time frame, we want to continue to look at the stats and number of calls,” he said. “We are currently at an interim stage with our union negotiations, so I think it is prudent and wise to extend the pilot.”
Burt added the cost to deliver the ALS service is a small percentage of the department’s overall budget and clearly raises patient care in the community.
In 2013 the ALS capable service is expected to cost $6,000 to pay for medical direction and medications. In 2014 it is expected to cost $10,000 due to recertification for paramedics and EMTs.
During the year-long initial pilot, a total of 1,191 calls were made for an ambulance through the 911 emergency system. Of those calls, Canmore Fire-Rescue was requested to attend 237 or 20 per cent of the time. Of those 237 responses, a total of 14, or six per cent was when no ambulance was available in the community.
Burt told council he is confident going into the future the department will be able to easily hire firefighters that also have EMT or paramedic training.
The ALS capable system means that if the firefighters on duty responding to a call to assist EMS are trained paramedics or EMTs, they can provide a higher level of care to potential patients in the community. Over the past year, Canmore’s fire department was capable of an ALS response 86 per cent of the time.
Council was happy with the results of the pilot project. Councillor Sean Krausert applauded the decisions of council a year ago, before he was elected in a byelection.