Canmore lets firefighters treat patients
Canmore’s fire department will remain capable of responding to medical emergencies with advanced life support, or ALS, for a oneyear trial period.
Local politicians voted to keep a paramedic response unit, within its stand-alone fire and rescue department, capable of delivering more than basic medical assistance after receiving a presentation Tuesday from fire Chief Todd Sikorsky.
Town council heard from the local union and administration, which recommended against the move, but Sikorsky said he supports it for a trial period and the costs are minimal.
“We are in a very unique situation of having paramedics that we have retained,” said the chief. “Because we have paramedics on our staff, it is feasible for us to run that system.
“Where this system shines is when we have ambulances not available or a delayed response.”
While council’s vote was unanimous, several members were reluctant in their support, questioning why Canmore should provide a stop-gap for a provincial service.
“The expectation is that Alberta Health Services is to provide us with ambulance service equivalent to our previous service,” said deputy mayor Hans Helder, who questioned how the town can hold AHS accountable at the same time as backstopping its service.
“No other municipality is providing this level of service through fire and rescue to support the AHS model, Helder said. “Having said that, I am inclined to side with the rest of my colleagues. I think we have a unique opportunity to test the ALS service for a period of time.”
Coun. Ed Russell said he remains concerned there are financial, legal and labour implications of the decision.
“We are going down a bad road,” Russell said. “Unfortunately, we were led here by the province.”
“I really think this is a common-sense moral issue,” said Coun. Jim Ridley. “If you are an individual in this community and emergency personnel come to your aid when we know ambulances are sometimes not available, do you want basic life support or advanced life support?”
Coun. John Borrowman noted that a one-year trial gives the town the opportunity to collect data to better understand how the AHS system is working while still providing the high level of service residents are used to.
“After a year, we will have a better idea about the AHS system without sacrificing public safety,” Borrowman said.
Sikorsky said the advanced life support system gives paramedics the ability to use up to 50 medications and advanced procedures to stop the clock on medical situations.
“It is basically bringing the emergency room to the patient,” he said.
With the move, Canmore becomes the only municipality in the province to provide ALS as a stop-gap measure for when ambulances in the AHS system are unavailable.
After a year, we will have a better idea about the AHS system without sacrificing public
safety. COUN. JOHN BORROWMAN