New Brunswick”s Health Minister Benoit Bourque has announced the expansion of the province’s Advanced Care Paramedic pilot program.
Bourque said Wednesday there will be permanent Advanced Care Paramedics in Moncton, Bathurst and Saint John. He also named Fredericton as the newest city to have the additional emergency response support.
“I’m proud to announce we are transforming the Advanced Care Paramedic pilot program by making the three existing sites permanent and adding a new site,” Bourque said.
The vice president of the Paramedic Association of New Brunswick, Derek Cassista, said the announcement is “good news.”
“This is something we’ve lobbied three previous governments for and we’re really pleased to hear that this is stepping out of a pilot project phase and into a more permanent position,” Cassista said.
Cassista said the Advanced Care Paramedics (ACP) are already licensed within New Brunswick and have been for years.
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Eric Beairsto, Ambulance New Brunswick Manager of Training & Quality Assurance, said he’s been waiting for this for a long time.
“We have the people, we’ll put them through an intense orientation to get them on-speed with exactly the equipment and medications we’re using and the philosophy that we need and the policy and process, so that’ll take place in the near-future,”Beairsto said.
He said ACPs are able to carry more medications than Primary Care Paramedics (PCPs), including medication for pain control, medications that can stop seizures and change heart rates.
Beairsto said ACPs will drive separate SUV vehicles to calls at the same time as an ambulance and will determine when they get there if the patient requires their level of help.
From there the ACP will either ride with the patient in the ambulance to the hospital or leave the scene and go to another call. He said by taking separate vehicles they are free to attend other more acute calls they could be missing.
The pilot program was announced in 2016 for Bathurst, Saint John, Moncton and Edmunston, but Edmundston was later dropped because of language recruitment issues.
Bourque said other provinces already have Advanced Care Paramedics and said the data from the pilot project was “quite overwhelming”.
He said a third of the calls that came in required advanced care. Bourque said that shows how essential the ACP role is and said that convinced the province to make them permanent.
Beairsto said they have seen 3,000 patients and performed nearly every intervention they have attended.
Cassista said there are still another 40 ACPs liscenced in New Brunswick who are insured, trained and who are in good standing.
“I think what’s really important moving forward is we’re going to continue to advocate that Advanced Care Paramedics be available 24/7 across the province because where these people, these individuals with these advanced skills really make an impact is in rural communities where they’re farther away from hospital. This is really going to impact everyone if it moves forward,” Cassista said.
Until the pilot program was launched in April 2017 ACPs in New Brunswick were barred from using their extra skills because their credentials weren’t recognized in the province
New Brunswick is the final jurisdiction in Canada to introduce these paramedics to its health care system.