The Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs and the Ontario Professional Fire Fighters Association have issued a joint statement urging that fire departments are dispatched sooner to life threatening medical emergencies. A provincial study has shown that survival rates for cardiac arrest victims doubles when an AED (Automated External Defibrillator) can be on scene within five minutes of the call being received. In their joint statement it notes that Full-Time fire departments can typically meet this response target. Taking the politics of Full-Time departments vs. Volunteer out of the equation, it should be noted that these response times are also met within the village of Russell.
Fire departments throughout Ontario are actually called to most life threatening medical calls, within Prescott Russell this is also the case. So why issue this statement at all? The issue isnít that fire departments are not called; it is when we are called. Obviously paramedic services are dispatched immediately to any medical emergency, in a call where fire services are also dispatched there can be delay of several minutes before the call goes out for this help. Unfortunately paramedic services are often overburdened and ambulances are not always where they are needed. This delay in calling fire services can often mean a delay in medical help arriving. Fire departments such ours in Russell have personnel trained to deal with these situations and the required equipment on board, however if we are not called in time there is not much that we can do. The goal of this statement and campaign is for fire services to be called simultaneously with paramedic services for life threatening medical calls. Some might complain about this duplication in service, usually the complaints are about the added costs. This however is not a valid point, as mentioned previously; fire services are already being dispatched to life threatening medical calls so the costs are already being incurred, unfortunately the public is not receiving full value for their dollar since we are not being used to our fullest potential.
Within the Village of Russell there has been an ongoing debate with The Emergency Services of Prescott Russell about dispatching the fire service to medical calls. Since the inception of the 9-1-1 call system we have seen a dramatic decrease in the number of medical calls we are asked to respond to. This is in part due to the dispatchers having to deal with a situation where a standard operating procedure is required. Not every fire department with Prescott Russell is trained to the same level as the Russell & Embrun Fire Departments. Because of this the dispatchers need to standardize their decisions based upon the lowest level of training available. Unfortunately we feel that this is a disservice to the community we serve and a waste of resources. As the Village of Russell grows along with the surrounding communities, response times for paramedic services will no doubt suffer. It is time to use the resources at hand and change the way we operate, letís hope it doesnít take someone to die to force this issue to the forefront.