Letters to the Editor

LETTERS: Best response for all of us


Re: Delays for ‘routine’ calls, April 24 letters.

A letter published in this paper from Mike McNamara, president of the Surrey Fire Fighters Association, made a number of assumptions regarding changes to ambulance response that require clarification.

As the BC Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) board chair, I feel it is necessary that your readers receive accurate information about the Resource Allocation Plan (RAP).

The board values the work of first responders; however, as the agency responsible for pre-hospital care, it is important that BCEHS strive to provide the best system-wide response for patients and taxpayers.

McNamara’s letter implies changes to ambulance response were not made in the best interest of patients and the public. This is simply untrue. Our mandate is to ensure that the best interest of patients and the public is always a priority. The board reviews and oversees all major public policy decisions related to ambulance service, including the RAP.

Our board recently requested that BCEHS engage a third-party expert to review the RAP methodology. Alan Craig, an expert on pre-hospital health care, completed this review in early 2014. His analysis determined that the RAP committee – comprised of physicians, paramedics, nurses and first responders – used evidence-based methodology to develop the updated ambulance and fire department response to medical calls.

Craig’s report also determined that changes were made based on industry best practices using a process that is superior to those used by most emergency medical service (EMS) systems.

In 2010, Craig and several physicians conducted a study in Toronto that found 83 per cent of calls assessed as emergencies could be downgraded to routine responses with no negative clinical outcome for patients. To ensure efficient use of resources, Toronto EMS dramatically reduced the number of calls assigned to first responders as a result of Craig’s research.

McNamara’s letter also states “BCEHS attempts to justify the controversial changes in protocols by suggesting patients that are known to be worst case receive more rapid response.”

Of course BCEHS aims to provide a faster response to patients who are critically ill or ‘worst case’ – this is the cornerstone of the updated RAP.

Since the implementation of the response changes for paramedics in October, ambulances are getting to the sickest patients faster – it is these cases where faster response times can drastically improve patient outcomes.

BCEHS executive remains committed to ensuring the right care is provided to the right patient in the right time, using public resources efficiently. BCEHS will continue to review the post-implementation results of the RAP, and engage with first responders and stakeholders.

G.W. (Wynne) Powell, BCEHS



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