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Councillors ask for updates on Edmonton’s fentanyl plan every 3 months

So pervasive is the problem of opioid abuse that it has become part of the Canadian consciousness and left doctors, public health officials and politicians scrambling to find solutions to contain the crisis. A man walks past a mural by street artist Smokey D. painted as a response to the fentanyl and opioid overdose crisis, in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, B.C., on Thursday, December 22, 2016.
So pervasive is the problem of opioid abuse that it has become part of the Canadian consciousness and left doctors, public health officials and politicians scrambling to find solutions to contain the crisis. A man walks past a mural by street artist Smokey D. painted as a response to the fentanyl and opioid overdose crisis, in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, B.C., on Thursday, December 22, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

City councillors have determined the Edmonton approach to combating fentanyl overdoses so far is the correct one.

Firefighters, paramedics and police are the only first responders with access to Naloxone kits and the training that goes with it. Other city staff like park rangers, transit drivers and rec centre staff do not.

READ MORE: Edmonton firefighters used naloxone kits 36 times in 13 weeks 

Those other city employees are trained in CPR, and are instructed under Edmonton’s procedure to call 911 and then work to get the individual breathing, while medical first responders with a Noloxone kit arrive.

“They are doing the right thing and I’m confident in that,” said Dr. Chris Sikora, the lead medical officer of health for the Edmonton zone of Alberta Health Services.

“We will continue to work with the City of Edmonton and our partners.”

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READ MORE: $60K of fentanyl seized in north Edmonton

The endorsement comes as Fire Chief Ken Block said his staff experienced their 39th episode in three months of having to administer the antidote.

“We’ve got now, three months of data, those being March, April and May,” Block said, not being able to put into context how serious that number is.

“That’ll be our comparable for the next three months to see where we are. It’s 39 times where someone’s life was in jeopardy, and yeah, that’s a lot.”

“Things come in clusters,” Block added. “We actually went two weeks with no Noloxone events in fire rescue, and in the last week, there have been quite a few.”

The report Thursday’s debate was based on had 31 incidents, so fire rescue staff have dealt with eight in the past week.

“If you look at the map, it’s very consistent. Probably 25 to 30 per cent of our events are in the downtown core and the rest are distributed throughout the rest of the city, throughout the different neighbourhoods in Edmonton,” Block said.

READ MORE: Alberta declares fentanyl problem a public health crisis

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Coun. Bev Esslinger, who chairs council’s community and public services committee, said she worries about what might happen if other city staff besides first responders have to administer the fentanyl antidote. She’s asked that city council review the situation every three months.

“I’m okay at this point to say: yes, we’re okay at this moment, but it’s an emerging issue and if more knowledge comes forward, we’d like to be able to respond, so that’s why for me quarterly updates on this issue is essential.”

READ MORE: Fentanyl is so deadly, a Red Cross official is OK with First-Aiders refusing CPR

Distribution of Noloxone isn’t widespread among EPS.

Deputy Chief Brian Simpson said there are concerns about how the wild fluctuations in temperature could impact the product.

“I was just in conversation with Winnipeg around what they’re doing. I asked: ‘How are you maintaining temperature?’ Right now, they’ve got it against the body of the officers.” Simpson hinted that isn’t stable enough to go by.

“We are paying attention to it, but there’s some real practicalities in terms of delivering the product,” he said and seems to think it’s better kept in fire halls and in fire trucks for immediate distribution.

The report only lists Vancouver for having more than first responders equipped with Noloxone. All other major cities use a similar model to Edmonton.

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