Council concerned about firefighters handling emergency medical calls

Sylvan Lake wants to know if its volunteer firefighters are being called to help with emergency medical assist calls. The issue of voluntary firefighters being asked to respond to heart attack or stroke calls where someone’s life is at risk and an ambulance can’t arrive right away has become a growing concern in some municipalities.

Sylvan Lake wants to know if its volunteer firefighters are being called to help with emergency medical assist calls.

The issue of voluntary firefighters being asked to respond to heart attack or stroke calls where someone’s life is at risk and an ambulance can’t arrive right away has become a growing concern in some municipalities.

Lacombe city council voted two weeks ago to direct the fire chief to develop new fire response guidelines that 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 continue to provide initial first aid at motor vehicle collisions, fire and rescue calls.

Council was concerned that allowing firefighters to take the calls increased liability risks and put an unfair load on volunteers, many of whom have only standard first aid training.

Sylvan Lake Coun. Laverne Asselstine raised the issue at Monday’s council meeting and referred to Lacombe’s experience when asking for a report back from administration and the local fire chief.

Council wants to know if firefighters are expected to act as first responders in medical emergencies and the liability implications.

Mayor Susan Samson said the issue has been on the town’s radar for some time.

Since ambulance services were taken over by the province “we are in a lesser position than we were before,” said Samson.

The community once had its own ambulance service, which had backups when needed.

Now, Sylvan ambulances are often pulled in to Red Deer to back up there on busy days, she said.

Town residents calling for help have no idea if there is an ambulance available locally or it has to be drawn from another community and is on its way.

“That’s critical to us. Not only do we not have an urgent care facility, we don’t have ambulances at our fingertips,” said the mayor.