Jason Arnold is one of a pilot project’s advanced life support paramedics working in the South Okanagan. (Contributed)

New advanced life support paramedics operating in South Okanagan for trial project

Trial tests whether ALS paramedic service will service rural regions

Paramedics with advanced life support (ALS) training are operating in the South Okanagan for three months as part of a pilot project by B.C. Emergency Health Services (BCEHS).

The goal of the trial, which began in Kelowna then moved to Vernon for two, three-month periods, is to provide an extra level of care at a time when the number of emergency calls are increasing in the region, according to BCHES district manager, Michael Boyarski.

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Under the pilot program, ALS paramedics attend emergency calls with regular paramedics but travel in their own SUV. They can practice high-intensity emergency medicine at the scene, such as treating heart attacks, strokes, major trauma and other life-threatening conditions. They also recommend where to transport a patient, whether it to the hospital or another treatment centre.

ALS paramedics can intubate a patient and administer advanced medications instead of waiting to do it at the hospital. They can also start IVs in the event of cardiac arrest when the body’s circulation is shut down.

“The advantage is they are doing this at the scene instead of waiting to transport them to the hospital and having this started there,” he said, adding the region currently only has highly trained primary care paramedics.

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“Their advanced skills include treating life-threatening cardiac patients and they are also licensed to administer a greater range of pain management,” Boyarski explained.

Advanced life support ambulances operate in large cities with higher populations. The project is looking at whether the service functions in rural areas like rural Okanagan.

“So far, the results have been very positive but we do want to look at the full term of the trial and definitely review our results.”

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