Rural ambulance response times expected to improve with recent changes
Alberta Health Services (AHS) is streamlining how it dispatches ambulance services. It's consolidating 40 dispatch centres into three. Calgary is the new dispatch centre for all of southern Alberta.
AHS is also introducing new technology to reduce response times in rural areas. Computer Assisted Dispatch (CAD) sends patient information and directions from dispatchers in Calgary.
CAD has been in Calgary emergency vehicles for years, but rural paramedic Curtis Berry has only had the system for a month.
"So at 3 a.m., I don't have to pick up two different maps. I don't have to pick out my section and ranges. Immediately I can pull it up on the map, see exactly where I go, which is my best route, and I'm there," said Berry.
AHS wants all ambulances in the province to be equipped with CAD as soon as possible. In addition to CAD, paramedics now have constant communication via mobile satellite (MSAT).
"We need RCMP, or fire, or the helicopter, we need a medivac helicopter, it really helps to be able to communicate that sort of thing," commented James Anderson with AHS.
At the AHS Public Safety Communications Centre, dispatchers can quickly locate the closest ambulance to a patient through GPS and automatic vehicle locators. It's now possible to bring a rural ambulance into Calgary to cover off an area and vice versa.
"In years past, we had to make multiple phone calls to coordinate using those resources from a different jurisdiction, now it's AHS, it's one jurisdiction, we can quickly and effectively dispatch an ambulance to Okotoks, like we did in the first week of this change when an ambulance responded in under nine minutes to a life-threatening emergency in Okotoks," said Dispatch Consolidation Program Manager Doug Odney.
Odney says the efficiency of dispatching ambulances from one centre for all of southern Alberta will not only be better for paramedics, but it also benefits their patients as well.