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B.C. expanding life-saving tools available to first responders

Click to play video: 'Vancouver using an app to send out public safety alerts' Vancouver using an app to send out public safety alerts
Daniel Stevens, Vancouver's Director of Emergency Management, explains how the new public safety alert app works – Dec 3, 2021

British Columbia says it is providing paramedics and first responders with more resources on the job, as well as an increase in mental health supports for emergency workers.

Health Minister Adrian Dix says the province is adding more life-saving intervention skills for paramedics including using portable ultrasound to better assess patients, enhancing airway management skills and providing life-supporting or sustaining medications during a patient’s transport to hospitals.

Click to play video: 'E-Comm is making changes to the way it answers ambulance calls' E-Comm is making changes to the way it answers ambulance calls
E-Comm is making changes to the way it answers ambulance calls – Dec 2, 2021

Firefighters will also be allowed to provide additional diagnostic testing, such as checking blood pressure and blood glucose to help paramedics deal with life-threatening allergic reactions.

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The new measures announced Friday come after B.C. said in July that it was overhauling the ambulance service to reduce wait times for the most serious 911 calls after complaints about long delays during medical emergencies.

At the time, Dix said calls had increased dramatically during a record-breaking heat wave this summer that killed almost 600 people when paramedics were already under pressure from the overdose crisis.

Click to play video: 'Health Minister Adrian Dix has announced a new position in efforts to improve BC ambulance service' Health Minister Adrian Dix has announced a new position in efforts to improve BC ambulance service
Health Minister Adrian Dix has announced a new position in efforts to improve BC ambulance service – Jul 14, 2021

Dix said Friday that the province has also added 85 full-time paramedics and 65 dispatchers, as well as 22 new ambulances.

E-Comm, the agency that oversees the 911 dispatch system in B.C., said Wednesday that dispatchers will no longer wait on the phone with callers until help arrives in an effort to answer calls more quickly.

Read more: B.C. 911 operators can now hang up on callers waiting for ambulances

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Last month, Dix said lessons need to be learned from what happened this summer and a death review panel is expected to provide recommendations to the coroner and the government next spring.

He also said the budget for the ambulance service has gone from $424 million to $559 million since 2017 as it hired hundreds of paramedics and dispatchers and purchased dozens of ambulances.

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