A comprehensive review, complete with 54 specific recommendations, on ambulance service is expected to be published by the provincial government today.
Executive director of health emergency management for the province Gerry Delorme presented yesterday at the Association of Manitoba Municipalities Officials Seminar at the Keystone Centre and said the review has been a long and arduous process consisting of hundreds of visits to ambulance garages, hospitals and speaking with patients.
Delorme offered insight into the review, telling the 650 delegates that changes to ambulance services in the province are needed.
“The model used to be ‘Load and go. Pedal to the metal,’” Delorme said. “We’re working to change the model so you get the health care you need, not the transportation — that’s not what we do anymore. Who cares how fast you’re driving if you’re getting the drugs and therapy that you need in the back of that ambulance.”
Technological advances and more sophisticated tools combined with a professional workforce is going to change how we view ambulance service, according to Delorme. But it will also mean the end of the volunteer workforce that service rural areas.
“We need a professional workforce,” Delorme said. “We want the volunteers to be medics in rural Manitoba and making sure there is the opportunity for training and good jobs at the end of it.”
The push to a dedicated, professional workforce will add cost, but Delorme believes paying more for responsive first-contact services will save the health-care system further down the road. He said, for example, it has been proven that professional cardiac care in the ambulance can reduce the amount of time that patients spend in the intensive care unit. Or, by having paramedics get to a stroke victim quicker that the person will recover quicker, require less rehab and ultimately have a higher quality of life.
“It is big dollars, but it isn’t huge in the health-care budget,” Delorme said. “We’re a $5-billion corporation and to get the appropriate ambulance coverage in rural Manitoba it’s an expenditure, but it’s not unreasonable. It’s also the most important place to get care because when you dial 911, we need to be ready to go.”
The review, according to Delorme, won’t pull any punches either as it will outline some specific flaws in the system and what needs to be done to correct them.
“This will give us our marching direction for the next 10 years,” Delorme said. “In the review people are going to be able to see the history, they’re going to see the recommendation and they’re going to see what we need to do about it.”
Glenboro Coun. Jesse Janz said the move to a fully professional paramedics workforce sounds good, but it doesn’t solve the problem the community, which lost its ambulance service last summer, faces today.
“We have a full staff of nurses and a full staff of doctors and we have no one to get people to the hospital,” said Janz, who used to volunteer with the ambulance service.
Other hospital equipment, including an X-ray machine, is in disrepair, according to Janz, and he’s not sure if the provincial government has the financial resources to fix it.
A woman in town recently suffered a stroke and fortunately knew two former volunteer ambulance attendants who helped treat her and get her to the hospital.
“Otherwise the ambulance would have been coming from Baldur or Carberry and that’s 45 minutes realistically,” Janz said. “Everyone should be entitled to reasonable health care.”