AMHERST – They’re not just patient movers. Modern paramedic services can begin treatment the moment they reach you and can save time getting care when you reach the hospital.
“People are driving to the hospital with things that we can help with,” said Craig Desjardins, operations manager for Amherst’s paramedic/ambulance service, EHS.
Desjardins walked his way through a possible scenario: A person in Joggins having a health issue thinks they’ll get treatment quicker – get to the hospital sooner – if they jump in their car and head out immediately.
But what if they go into cardiac arrest on the way? What about minutes lost at the hospital because the staff wasn’t notified?
What about treatments EHS can administer in that person’s home that improve the patient’s prognosis?
The operations manager said paramedics have a “large scope” of things they can do on the scene, and it’s very rare that a call for help isn’t answered immediately.
“We’re a system without borders,” said Desjardin.
Whatever ambulances are operating in a region – even if they’re based elsewhere – are available for service in that area. And the Ambulance Communications Centre in Dartmouth will shift resources as needed (they have a “crazy awesome setup,” said Desjardins).
The operations manager is uncertain how many people are driving themselves or loved ones to the hospital when they should have phoned 911.
“It’s hard to track that,” he said.
One of the reasons people don’t call, according to Desjardins, is they think their condition isn’t serious enough. And there’s the aforementioned perception that the primary reason to call 911 is to get to the hospital quickly.
“A lot of people think…we’re just a people moving service,” he said.
“We’re definitely more.”
Tim Bayers, a senior manager with EHS, expressed concern about the phenomenon of people driving themselves to the hospital.
“If the patient’s condition worsens, you can’t care for yourself or someone else while driving, and it could be difficult for paramedics to find you if you’re on the move, given there are multiple routes to a hospital,” he said in a written statement.
A potentially distracted driver poses a risk to himself, the patient and the public, according to Bayers.
Cost may be a factor in a patient’s decision to call for an ambulance. For example, an ambulance attending a car accident will result in a $672.57 charge. However, the fee is that high because the provincial government anticipates collecting money from third party (auto) insurers. In a medical emergency where no third part insurer has potential responsibility, the cost for Nova Scotians is $134.52. And an ambulance fee assistance program was instituted in Sept. to help people who can’t afford the fee. A repayment schedule can be created or, depending on circumstances, fees may be waived.