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Paramedics play key, if not overlooked, role in health system

['Commentary with Geoff deGannes']
['Commentary with Geoff deGannes']

Commentary with Geoff deGannes

The Province of Nova Scotia recently recognized its highly skilled Emergency Health Services staff with long service awards.  

As Health and Wellness Minister Randy Delorey alluded to in his remarks many of those being honoured have been part of the evolution of the province’s emergency health care services over the past few decades, expanding their roles and growing their skills. 

It is certainly a deserving honour for this groups of paramedics and support staff who are too often underappreciated considering the important role they play in the delivery of health care services on a 24/7 basis.   

If you have ever witnessed them in action, you can attest to their professionalism and understand the difficult treatment decisions they are forced to make sometimes based on very limited information. 

Paramedics in Nova Scotia respond to more than 600 ambulance calls a day and also work thousands of hours at collaborative emergency centres each year, ensuring there is emergency medical care available in rural areas.  Some paramedics provide care to seniors in nursing homes through the award-winning Extended Care Paramedic program. Others work in emergency rooms, or at the EHS Medical Communications Centre, helping to triage and direct colleagues to emergency calls.

Over the past few months, the paramedics union has brought it to the public’s attention that at times over this past winter, the ambulance system was taxed to the limit.  Union President Terry Chapman says this isn’t a new problem and the union has broached the subject with health officials before, but nothing seems to happen to alleviate it.    

Unfortunately, the problems being faced by paramedics is just part of the overall systemic issues facing a dysfunctional health care system. As the paramedics have explained, the fact is that there often aren’t enough beds available in hospital to admit patients who don’t need immediate attention and as a result paramedics can spend hours waiting with a patient for a bed to become available.   

As paramedic Chad Drover explained to the CBC in a recent interview, even though the patient has been assessed and is technically in the system, paramedics are not allowed to leave if there is no physician in charge of their care. The backlog may mean a longer wait for those who have called for help.    

Oftentimes when we consider the problems of overcapacity in our health care facilities and the stress it is creating for our doctors and nurses, we tend to overlook the fact that our paramedics are very much a key component in that overall system and they are feeling the effects as well.     As communities that are being so well served by these dedicated men and women, we owe them a debt of gratitude for their service and sacrifices they make each and every day.

Geoff deGannes is the past chairman of the Tantramar Radio Society. His daily commentaries can be heard on 107.9 CFTA.

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