VICTORIA, B.C. – Paramedics and first responders will soon have the ability to deliver more life-saving techniques in emergency situations.

Health Minister Adrian Dix, chair of the emergency medical assistance licensing board, Ryan Sinden, and chief ambulance officer at BC Emergency Health Services Leanne Hipple spoke at a conference on Friday to announce the changes.

“It has taken a lot of hard work and good faith from the parties from everyone here today. Once the changes are implemented, paramedics and first responders will increasingly be able to help patients on scene,” said Dix.

“For paramedics, this means the ability to provide more life-saving interventions which have various licensing levels can include needle decompression for major chest trauma to support breathing, using portable ultrasound to better assess patients and inform care decisions, enhancing airway management skills, and providing life-supporting or sustaining medications during transport.”

First responders such as firefighters can provide more diagnostic testing, including blood pressure and blood glucose while on-scene which would better inform paramedics, and they could support the preparation and packing of patients for transport.

“What this means for people, and that’s the most important thing, is when it’s a life and death situation, first responders who respond to medical emergencies will be better prepared and trained and equipped to manage it all and get you through the most critical moment of your life.”

The changes reflect recommendations made by the Emergency Medical Assistants Licensing Board (EMALB) to provide better outcomes for patients in emergency situations. Ryan Sinden, chair, says the changes today are a bigger step forward than the last three decades.

“This initiative is the culmination of significant efforts by all stakeholders under a demanding timeline. At all licence levels, emergency medical assistants will have their ability to assess and treat patients greatly expanded,” said Sinden.

“The Emergency Medical Assistants Licensing Board will be active going forward to ensure that all licensees complete appropriate board-approved training and demonstrate competency with the new skills and equipment prior to their use.”

In addition to the scope of practice changes, BC Emergency Health Services(BCEHS) and the Ambulance Paramedics of BC (CUPE 873) have worked on a plan to increase mental health supports and resources.

“We need to help our emergency responders, who we all rely on when we need help most. We know our emergency service providers will come face to face with challenging situations, and we need to be there to support them through that,” said Dix. “I thank the BCEHS and the Ambulance Paramedics and Dispatchers of BC (CUPE 873) for working on immediate actions and on a long-term plan to best support them.”

Immediate actions include increased clinical supports and resources to support frontline staff and their families, adding resources for all BCEHS staff and families, and creating a joint committee to set short, medium and long-term strategies for psychological health.