It’s been eight months since Ambulance NB stopped dispatching emergency medical calls to the Memramcook and Dorchester fire departments, as well as another ten departments across the province. Last week, officials from the New Brunswick Department of Health and Ambulance New Brunswick met with local mayors and representatives from the province’s municipal associations to discuss the issue, and the delay in solving it.
“The folks on the call were fairly optimistic that they were going to find a solution,” says Bourgeois, and one that could be in place by October, and apply across the province. “They want all the fire departments to have that opportunity to be able to be called and dispatched,” says Bourgeois.
“In our communities, as you know, if something does happen, it can take up to 45 minutes before a paramedic arrives on the scene,” says Bourgeois. Local fire departments, on the other hand, are typically under 10 minutes away. “So it’s the fire department calls that can definitely make the difference between life and death in certain situations,” says Bourgeois.
The decision to end medical first responder dispatching appears to be a resource issue. In March, Ambulance NB spokesperson Christianna Williston told CHMA that the “improvised solution” by which a dozen departments received calls was determined to be “no longer sustainable.” Williston pointed out that different departments had different capabilities for calls, and also that it is still ANB policy to call on fire departments in a small number of cases, such as when there is a delayed response expected, when there is a high acuity or ECHO level call, and when ANB staff will need help with lift assists.
Bourgeois says he doesn’t quite understand why the current practice would take less dispatcher time than the previous scenario. “If you have somebody that does