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AHS, Lacombe working to tackle ambulance woes

Alberta Health Services is reviewing why Lacombe volunteer firefighters were seeing increasing numbers of medical assist calls to help out ambulance crews.

Lacombe city council voted two weeks ago to direct administration to develop new fire response guidelines which would limit the Lacombe Fire Department’s emergency medical response to assisting ambulance attendants with patient lifts assists from buildings or confined areas. Volunteers will also continue to provide initial first aid at motor vehicle collisions, fire and rescue calls.

The decision was made after council heard that firefighters are increasingly being dispatched to emergency medical calls, such as patients suffering strokes or heart attacks, when ambulances can’t get their soon enough.

But that put volunteer firefighters, many of whom only have standard first aid, in a difficult position, council was told.

Mayor Steve Christie said municipalities across Alberta have complained of similar situations for several years.

“We decided as a council to actually do something about it and be a part of the solution.”

Council’s move caught the attention of Alberta Health Services.

“They have been working with us ever since we made that decision at our last council meeting,” said Christie, a former volunteer firefighter with 12 year’s experience. “They’ve been looking at the data to see why there was an increased number of calls, who was making the calls, what kinds of calls they were, the response times.”

Christie praised the response of health officials, saying they are “definitely committed to solutions.”

Information from the city’s fire department dispatch services and the province’s dispatch is being collected to get a better picture of what is happening and whether it represents a trend.

Christie recently met with the city’s fire department to explain council’s decision.

“We’re very, very proud of our firefighters. They do a super job for our community and it was just some clarification on what had happened and why the decision was made.”

Volunteer firefighters are split over the issue of attending the medical assist calls. Some who have advanced medical training welcome the chance.



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