Giving firefighters medical training an idea worth considering, local fire chief says

Firefighters on scene of a call.

The Delta Fire Department became one of the first in the province to provide on-the-scene advanced emergency medicine this week, but it’s facing push back from the provincial government.

Delta made the controversial move without the approval of BC Emergency Health Services, and Health Minister Terry Lake says there are issues around liability and patient safety.

He adds, “The ambulance really is the emergency room on wheels, and you want to make sure from a licensing perspective and a training perspective that, that high quality is met.”

However, Fire Chief Dan Copeland says, it’s about providing high quality care in a timely fashion.

He confirms it cost around $120,000 to train and license his 120 firefighters to the Emergency Medical Responder level, but he’s convinced fire departments across the province should follow suit.

Here in Fort St. John, Fire Chief Fred Burrows emphasizes any program implementation decision must come from City Hall. But, he also views it as a program worth considering.

“We’ve been just tasked to medical emergencies when the ambulance phones and says they’re delayed,” said Burrows.

“Even if we weren’t going to more medical calls, just that level of training is good, because what it does is it opens up the doors for you to be more proficient when you do end up going to a call that’s specifically designated in our area to go to when there’s a delay.

“Those kind of protocols allow us more in our toolbox to work with where we’re going to a call and we’re with a patient for maybe 45 minutes or an hour.”

The Delta opposition is also coming from the Ambulance Paramedics of BC, which views the program as illegal, and also has job protection concerns.

“They see it as infringing into their territory, but any of the politics around it it’s not at a local level,” said Burrows.

“We have an amazing working relationship with the ambulance service in Fort St. John, what I would probably say is envious of a lot of other communities.”