A plan by the municipality of Delta to have its firefighters provide expanded medical care during emergencies is raising the ire of the provincial government and paramedics.
Delta passed a bylaw on May 25 permitting their firefighters to maintain IVs and give pain medication in emergencies, among other services, beginning June 15.
“We know about 50 per cent of the time our fire responders are there three minutes to an hour plus before the ambulance. We’re just looking after the people who are down on the ground,” says Delta Mayor Lois Jackson.
“Our guys are all trained up to go, and they’re going Monday.”
In 2013, B.C. Emergency Health Services instituted changes that shortened response times for urgent ‘Code 3’ calls, but increased times for calls deemed less urgent.
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There are 122 firefighters in the municipality, and because they have separate fire halls in North Delta, Tsawwasen, Ladner, Delta officials say their fire trucks can arrive on scene faster than ambulances in many cases.
However, the decision is being opposed by BC Emergency Health Services, who say the action is illegal.
“It is BCEHS’ position that the Municipality of Delta is not acting in accordance with the Emergency Health Services Act and the Regulation.”
The union for paramedics also opposes the move, saying there are several issues around “the legal, liability, licensing, patient and public safety ramifications” of having firefighters perform enhanced duties.
“The union took the position that the employer should not dispatch Delta First Responders, knowing they’re committing illegal acts,” wrote Bronwyn Barter, President of CUPE Local 873.
“We also made it clear to the employer that the underlying issue is a lack of Paramedic resources, which needs to be immediately addressed by the employer and government.”
However, Chief Dan Copeland says their crews have been trained and their lawyers consulted – and that allowing firefighters to perform these tasks is a question of improving efficiency.
“We think it’s a colossal waste of taxpayer dollars to have our staff in the fire halls when they can be out serving the community in a life saving manner.”